|Mansfield Town 2|
|Bradford City 3|
|O’Connor 19, Vernam 61, Cook 87|
By Nikhil Vekaria
Andy Cook scored a dramatic late winner against his old club as Bradford City made a real statement of intent to make it four league games unbeaten to start the new campaign. In a frenetic encounter, the striker ultimately sealed what was a back-and-forth game late on in front of a packed away end.
The clash between two unbeaten, highly tipped teams promised a lot before kick-off, and it certainly lived up to expectations.
City made one change from the superb 4-1 home win over Stevenage, with Yann Songo’o making his first start for the Bantams after Lee Angol was ruled out through an injury picked up on Tuesday night. It now appears that City may be missing the striker for a number of months.
Mansfield also made one change from the team that dropped two points to a 95th minute penalty at Colchester in the week, but still named a side with a wealth of attacking talent including Danny Johnson, Oli Hawkins, Rhys Oates and Stephen Quinn.
The hosts could’ve been forgiven if they were still reeling after their trip to Essex in midweek, but they started well in terms of possession and kept City camped in their own half for much of the opening exchanges, with Quinn proving particularly difficult for City’s midfield to deal with.
Despite the home side’s possession, Richard O’Donnell was never truly challenged in goal and The Stags paid the price for a lack of cutting-edge as Paudie O’Connor headed in the opener from a Callum Cooke corner to give City the lead just before the 20-minute mark.
The goal gave City a real lift and the visitors grew into the game over the next 15 minutes or so, with Charles Vernam and Alex Gillead increasingly being able to carry the ball towards the home defence.
However, Mansfield did strike back before the break as Ollie Hawkins headed in superbly from a cross after Nigel Clough’s men got in down City’s right hand-side. This meant that the spoils were shared at the break, but Clough will have been delighted when seven minutes into the second period, Hawkins doubled his and his teams tally with a superb volley after Mansfield got in on City’s right hand side again.
Many of the travelling City fans may have feared the worst at this point as Field Mill got behind the home team, but Derek Adams men picked themselves up and fought back superbly to claim all three points. It is the first time the Bantams have come from behind to win away from home since a trip to Fleetwood Town in League One on New Year’s Day 2018.
The equaliser came just after the hour mark as the superb Vernam was slipped in by Callum Cooke before curling a wonderful effort past Manchester United loanee Nathan Bishop, although the youngster may feel he should’ve done better. With half an hour remaining, the game was well set up between two sides who both look capable of troubling the top end of League Two this season.
The remaining half an hour was end to end, with both teams enjoying periods of possession. With just under five minutes remaining, Richard O’Donnell made a superb save to deny Elliot Hewitt at the back post and 30 seconds later, City had their goal.
The Bantams broke and Liam Ridehalgh linked up with Vernam again down the left-hand side, with the winger high on confidence having scored his first goal in 23 games earlier in the half.
He tried his luck from a similar angle to where the equaliser had come from, and this time Bishop was able to get more of a hand to it. However, he was still only able to palm the ball to Cook, who turned it in on the rebound in front of the travelling City fans to send the away end into raptures.
Six added minutes led to a few nervy moments and tension in the away end, but the Bantams held on to seal a superb come from behind victory which stretched the unbeaten league start to four games.
The performance showed that Derek Adams side still have improvements to make, particularly at the back, but the manner in which City fought back away from home to beat a promotion rival will lead to huge optimism within the fanbase that a manager with a superb record at this level could complete the job again.
Categories: Match Reviews