MATCH REPORT: Bradford 2 Fleetwood 1
Fleetwood let a one goal lead slide as they slipped to their third defeat in a row at Valley Parade.
It all started so well and the cobwebs that had suddenly appeared at Rochdale a week or so ago and against MK Dons looked well and truly dusted off as a rejuvenated Town turned up at Bradford ready to cause an upset.
Devante Cole should have sent Town on the way to victory early doors but he wasted another one-on-one opportunity.
But the in-form Bobby Grant was on hand to ensure that Uwe Rosler’s men saw the fruits of all their labour as he smashed the ball home from an angle in the 34th minute.
Town looked to be on their way to a half-time lead after a sublime diving save from Chris Neal thwarted Timothee Dieng from close range.
But Bradford knocked the stuffing out of Town with a first-half injury time leveller as Filipe Morais pounced on substitute Billy Clarke’s pull-back to rifle in an equaliser.
It was an enthralling first-half of end-to-end football with two similar outfits battling it out.
But the goal had knocked the confidence and the stuffing out of Town and it was a much flatter second 45 with Bradford and Fleetwood both enjoying purple patches.
Bradford had set-up camp in Town’s half but were failing to produce any real threat until Eggert Jonsson pulled down Dieng and Graham Salisbury pointed to the spot.
It was another individual error and the third penalty Town have conceded in the space of four days and Clarke stepped up with a fine left-footed spot-kick to give the Bantams the lead in the 62nd minute.
Although Town managed to get themselves in some fine attacking positions they could not find the killer ball or pass despite their late dominance as they dropped to 13th in the table.
Rosler made three changes to the side that lost 4-1 to MK Dons and switched formation from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1.
Jonsson and Martyn Woolford came in for injured duo Kyle Dempsey and Chris Long and Cole was favoured in the starting XI to Hunter on his return to the club he joined Town from.
Fleetwood started brightly with Grant and Ball finding pockets of space but it was Bradford who had the best chance of the opening minutes as Jordy Hiwula found space on the left of the box but his angled effort cannoned off Neal’s shoulder to safety.
Devante Cole should have put Town ahead against his old club in the 15th minute as he pounced on Knight-Percival’s loose pass deep in Bradford’s half to run one-on-one with ex-Blackpool keeper Colin Doyle.
It was an easier chance than his one-on-one he scattered wide in the Dons defeat but Doyle was on hand to tip his bobbling right-footed effort out for a corner with a left-handed diving save.
And Town went close from the corner as Grant fizzed it to McLaughlin on the right corner of the box but his curling effort into the mix was just hacked away by an amber and claret shirt.
Vuckic stole in on the right of the box, his angled shot beat Neal but fortunately flew a whisker past the left post and Neal was called into action moments later as he came off his line and threw himself through the air to bat the ball away with McNulty hovering unmarked in space in the box, he took out the midfielder with his follow through and both were visited by the physio before play resumed.
Cullen took Grant’s trailing leg as he tried to steam out of his own half and was booked for the late challenge.
Town looked strong and dangerous on the attack but kept making the wrong decisions as they honed in on goal.
They launched a slick attack from the subsequent set-piece as Ryan once again found holes in Bradford’s defence as Ball sprinted unchallenged to the back line but his end delivery was not on song as he lofted the ball into Doyle’s palms with a host of red and white shirts waiting for the pull-back.
Put Town finally got the goal their attacks deserved as McLaughlin fizzed the ball up down the right flank from the back into the path of Ball who held it up before lifting it into the path of Grant, he got it down, roared past Knight-Percival before getting the ball on to his left foot and rocketed the ball past Doyle from a tight angle in the 34th minute to bag his third goal in as many games.
Bradford were forced into a change as McNulty, who was involved in a collision with Neal earlier in the half, left the field in the 41st minute with Clarke entering the fray.
Chris Neal made a spectacular save just before the break as James Meredith whipped the ball in from the left Timothee Dieng got ahead of the pack to nudge the ball towards the bottom right corner from five-yards out but Neal had the reflexes of an ally cat as he dived full stretch to somehow get a glove to it.
But Bradford kept the pressure on as the fourth official signalled two minutes extra time.
A shot cannoned back up into the mix substitute Clarke had gambled on it and outfoxed Pond, McLaughlin and Eastham to storm into the box before rolling the ball perfectly back for Morais to blast home.
Fleetwood were saved by Neal once again and the offside flag as Hiwula found himself with the ball at his feet unmarked in the six-yard box but he fired straight at Neal as the flag went up.
Ball had been nibbling at the claret and amber shirts and was booked for fouling Morias.
Town were holding strong under a sustained spell of pressure with Bradford camping on the edge of the box but when Dieng managed to weave a way into the box he was felled by Jonsson and the referee booked the midfielder and pointed to the spot.
Substitute Clarke stepped up to coolly blast the ball left-footed past Neal in the 62nd minute.
After the goal Rosler made a positive double sub bringing off Cole and Woolford and throwing on Jakubiak and Hunter with Rosler switching it to a 4-3-1-2.
Bolger came off the bench for Jonsson to make his Town debut in an unlikely position up front as a target man for the rest of the small forward line as Rosler went 4-3-3 to try and get a leveller.
And Fleetwood had two golden opportunities to make something happen with two corners in quick succession but as his been a feature in recent games Town failed to produce a good enough delivery to cause chaos in the opposition box.
But despite Town’s possession and space in Bradford’s half they could not produce some clear cut chances and substitute Marshall nearly showed them how it is done as he latched on to a counter-attack and blasted the ball towards goal but Neal was strong enough to bat it away.
Jakubiak showed a late glimpse of what he can do as his shot was just palmed away by Doyle but he was offside anyway.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Pond, Eastham, Bell, Ryan, Jonsson (Bolger, 82), Grant, Ball, Cole (Hunter, 64), Woolford (Jakubiak, 64). Subs not used: Cairns, Glendon, Nirennold, Duckworth.
Bradford: Doyle, Darby, Meredith, Vincelot, Dieng, Hiwula, Cullen, McNulty (Clarke, 41), Vuckic (Marshall, 63), Morais (Law, 63), Knight-Percival. Subs not used: Sattelmaier, Clarke, Devine, Kilgallon.
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Attendance: 16759 (95 Fleetwood)