|Southend United 1|
|Bradford City 3|
|Evans 23+74, Rowe 57|
By Adam Raj
This could have been a real banana skin for the resurgent Bantams tonight. City don’t normally live up to the billing of ‘favourites’ when playing sides down the bottom and bang out of form. But tonight, a really professional and disciplined performance saw the Bantams leave Essex with all three points.
It wasn’t a classic by any means – a sodden surface meant City’s football wasn’t as slick as we saw on Saturday and made for a real scrap. But as we have already seen, this City side under Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars can do the ugly side of the game very well indeed.
City lined up unchanged from the draw at Cambridge, which saw new signing Danny Rowe lead the line once again. The City centre forward was lively in the opening stages, flashing a low cross across the face of goal and seeing a curling effort from just outside of the box well saved by home keeper Mark Oxley.
Rowe looks to be a fantastic signing – his intelligence and awareness of players around him on and off the ball is superb and his ball striking ability is something that can only be rivalled by Paul Taylor in my time supporting City.
Levi Sutton went close with a low drive and Finn Cousin-Dawson saw a header from the resulting corner blocked by Simeon Akinola. Something that can be laid at City’s door is failing to capitalise on their dominant spells in games, but that wasn’t the case this evening at Roots Hall.
Callum Cooke’s driving run forwards into the Southend box caused confusion leading to centre half Shaun Hobson making a last ditch tackle which inadvertently bounced off Oxley and straight into the path of Gareth Evans. The winger made no mistake with a smart side-foot finish into the far corner to score his first goal back in City colours.
Unexpectedly, the opening goal seemed to spark the home side into life and they were level eight minutes later. Anthony O’Connor failed to cleanly win the ball 20 yards out, Connor Wood misjudged the subsequent bounce and Elvis Bwomono was the liveliest to capitalise and finish low off the far post past Sam Hornby.
City could have found themselves behind minutes later. Ashley Nathaniel-George went past Sutton and Cousin-Dawson far too easily and fired the ball low across goal, where Hornby parried into the path of Bwomono who fired wide. It was a typical defender’s finish and quite the opposite of his earlier strike. A real let off, after City had dropped off and allowed the hosts to come onto them. But City survived and half time came at the perfect time for the visitors and probably at the wrong time for Southend.
City started the second half much as they finished the first, but it quickly became apparent as to why. For all Southend’s possession in the second half, they never looked like scoring. Barring a poor Recco Hackett-Fairchild finish after slack City defending, Sam Hornby remained untroubled. Southend were limited to speculative long shots which frequently found the back of the stands rather than the back of the net.
And at the other end, they were a car crash.
You wonder if they had done their homework on Rowe after allowing him the time and space to unleash two thunderbolts, one a half volley from 40 yards – both of which had to be well saved by Oxley. Eventually the City frontman had his first Bantams goal.
Hornby’s long kick was flicked on by Billy Clarke, Southend skipper John White slipped over and Callum Cooke was sent through one on one with Hobson. Cooke slowed it down, waited for Rowe on the overlap who finished expertly under the onrushing Oxley. Rowe never looked like missing and it really was refreshing to have full confidence in a City striker to hit the back of the net.
City’s third came through similar fashion. Clarke flicked the ball on to Cooke who knocked it past his man. The Southend defender lazily pulled back at Cooke’s shirt but the midfielder was too strong and was once again left one on one with Hobson. This time is was Evans rushing in support and was fed by Cooke. Evans side footed the ball calmly under Oxley and City had the game wrapped up.
It may not have been the easiest game to watch, given City’s willingness to surrender possession, but when the opposition defence hands you goals like Southend did, you have to say the Bantams’ game plan was spot on.
Trueman and Sellars have shown they can win games by dominating and taking the game to their opponents and now they have shown they can win ugly. Credit has to go to them for finding different ways to win. As the saying goes, good teams win ugly.
Categories: Match Reviews