Billy Clarke’s first half goal maintained Bradford City’s unbeaten league record as they defeat Chesterfield 1-0 at the Proact Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
After Tuesday’s last-gasp disappointment for the Spireites, courtesy of a 95th-minute Gillingham equaliser, they will have been pleased to be quickly back in action and hoping to turn their fortunes around with a fourth home league victory of the season.
Danny Wilson’s side couldn’t have asked for much tougher opposition though as unbeaten Bradford City, roared on by a sold-out away following, made the short journey to North Derbyshire in search of a second straight win after beating Fleetwood Town 2-1 in midweek.
Chesterfield had already proven that these streaks did not phase them, however, by bringing Northampton Town’s incredible 31-game unbeaten run to an end just two weeks ago.
An unchanged eleven was named for the hosts. Conor Wilkinson and Kristian Dennis continued a strike partnership that had netted seven times in the last three games, while academy graduate Laurence Maguire and recently called-up New Zealand international Liam Graham made second consecutive home starts in the full back roles.
The only word to sum up the opening 20 minutes of the contest would be stalemate, as the two sides cancelled each other out and failed to look any kind of threat in front of goal – a Timothee Dieng effort that flashed just wide of the far post as close as anyone came in the early stages.
But with their noisy supporters behind them, the Bantams slowly began to take hold of the game around the 25-minute mark.
Mark Marshall charged past numerous defenders on a mazy run before firing a powerful ball across the face of goal which loanee Jordy Hiwula came agonisingly close to converting at the far post.
The two men combined once more just a minute later – Hiwula this time sending a deflected effort over the crossbar.
And it was the resulting set piece that proved to be the deadlock-breaker. A short corner found Clarke in the area and he hammered a venomous strike in at the near post to put the Yorkshire outfit ahead.
The Spireites almost hit straight back when Dennis’ goal-bound free kick forced goalkeeper Colin Doyle in to a tremendous outstretched save to deny the former non-league man.
However, it was clear to see that it was Bradford who were in the ascendancy as the first half approached it’s conclusion – Marshall and James Meredith both coming close with dangerous strikes from the edge of the area.
Hiwula looked a major threat up front and once again he came close when he raced into the area on the counter before firing a low strike that was denied by the legs of goalkeeper Ryan Fulton.
The home side picked up somewhat in the opening 15 minutes of the second period, but still rarely looked a true threat to Bradford’s lead.
Dennis, who had found the net in each of the last three games, was withdrawn shortly after the hour and replaced by Republic of Ireland U21 midfielder Connor Dimaio – Jay O’Shea having replaced Reece Mitchell at the interval as the Spireites’ boss looked to change the momentum of the contest.
The switches appeared to have little effect though, and as the 70-minute mark fast approached, Bradford almost doubled their lead as Meredith’s low drive from inside the area rolled just wide of the far post.
The 1,977 travelling supporters were in fine voice as the contest entered it’s final 15 minutes with the Bantams still leading by a single goal.
With just over five minutes to go, the Spireites appeared to have been gifted their best chance of levelling when the ball bounced around the area before landing perfectly to Gboly Ariyibi’s feet at the far post.
However, before he could get a proper connection on the ball, the hopes of the Chesterfield supporters were dashed by the assistant’s raised flag and the Bradford fans were quickly vocal once more.
In truth, however, an equaliser would have been unjust as Bradford City looked thoroughly good value for the victory – coming close to adding another yet again in stoppage time – and will have only been disappointed not to have won by more.
Line-up: Ryan Fulton, Sam Hird, Gary Liddle, Reece Mitchell (Jay O’Shea ’46), Jon Nolan (Ricky German ’76), Kristian Dennis (Connor Dimaio ’63), Tom Anderson, Conor Wilkinson, Laurence Maguire, Gboly Ariyibi, Liam Graham
Unused Subs: Ian Evatt, Dan Gardner, Ritchie Humphreys, Dylan Parkin
Bradford City (1)
Line-up: Colin Doyle, Stephen Darby, James Meredith, Nicky Law (Filipe Morais ’78), Romain Vincelot, Mark Marshall, Timothee Dieng, Billy Clarke (Haris Vuckic ’78), Jordy Hiwula, Josh Cullen, Nathaniel Knight-Percival
Unused subs: Rouven Sattelmaier, Rory McArdle, Daniel Devine, Matthew Kilgallon, Vincent Rabiega
Scorers: Billy Clarke ’26
Date: 1st October 2016
Attendance: 6,997 (1,977 away)
Competition: League 1
Referee: Mr Darren Bond