MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 2 Bradford 1

Uwe Rosler
Uwe Rosler

Devante Cole popped up to haunt his old club as his goal helped Town on their way to a mighty fight-back as their unbeaten run rolled on to 15.

It looked like a Valentine’s night to forget as Fleetwood were second best to a strong Bradford side who had taken the lead threough Jordy Hiwula in the 43rd minute.

Town looked down and out but after a strong start to the second half Cole popped up with a 68th minute equaliser after substitutes Bobby Grant and Ash Hunter had sliced a napping Bantams open on the right.

The goal reignited Town and their superior fitness levels told as Conor McLaughlin ball across goal was diverted home by Bradford’s Rory McArdle in the 82nd minute to give Town all three pointsd.

Fleetwood head coach Uwe Rosler made four changes to the side that drew with Rochdale on Saturday.

McLaughlin recovered from an ankle knock to return to the starting line-up at right wing-back.

Liverpool loanee Cameron Brannagan made his first start on the left of a midfield three with Markus Schwabl and Devante Cole also starting.

They came in for Jack Sowerby, Bobby Grant, George Glendon and Ash Hunter with Wes Burns missing out due to a leg knock.

It was tipped as a blockbuster and it was a lively start but rather than goal mouth spectacular there was a lot of quick frenetic passing play in the middle.

Town had some slick passing moves but it was Bradford who looked the real danger when they bombed forward in numbers and it was Stuart McCall’s men who had the first clear cut chance.

Ben Davies was harshly penalised for impeding Wyke and Law whipped in a peach of a cross from the dead ball situation for the giant McArdle to run on to but his bullet header flew over the bar.

After getting their first sight of goal Bradford should have been ahead moments later. Law did the damage once again as his through ball found Hiwula but he fired straight at Cairns, it was a sign of what was to come but Rosler’s men did not head the warning.

The visitors won a number of set-pieces in the first half hour but like many of Town’s own dead ball situations they were poor after McArdle’s first header with Bolger on hand to clear most of what they mustered.

You sensed Bradford wanted to get a goal before half-time to knock the stuffing out of Town and they upped the ante in the latter stages.

Romain Vincelot won the ball on the left flank but fortunately Wyke’s subsequent first time effort flew over. Fleetwood had survived that Bradford purple patch but there was more to come.

But despite Bradford’s number of attacks Town still had some ammunition of their own. A Schwabl clearance eventually released Cole, he drove out to the right of the box but his cross just missed the run of Ball but Town reworked the ball with Brannagan drilling an effort straight down Doyle’s throat.

There was some desperate defending for Town at times with some rare miscommunication at the back as Bradford piled on the pressure in the closing stages.

Bradford swarmed forward in numbers and in the end Town were their own undoing as they lost possession from their own throw deep on the left hand side allowing Hiwula and Wyke to combine before Hiwula slotted the ball into the bottom corner in the 43rd minute.

One of the highlights of Rosler’s side has been their ability to press and frighten defences into mistakes but this time when given a taste of their own medicine from a talented Bradford side they did not like it.

Fleetwood showed signs of being on the end of a verbal battering at the break as they started strongly and managed to get wing-backs Bell and McLaughlin on the ball more.

And it was a right wing move from McLaughlin that nearly lead to an early leveller. The wing-back over hit his cross but a backpeddaling Brannagan kept the ball alive as he nodded the ball back into the danger zone, Dempsey rolled it on to Ball but the stretching forward just fizzed the ball wide of the right stick.

Town looked more organised and menacing after the break but despite Fleetwood’s control of posession and fast flowing football it was Bradford who had the best chances.

Hiwula looked to have stole in once again but ended up falling over his feet as Eastham neared but they should have put the game to bed minutes later as Law fizzed the ball across the goal line only for Davies’ clearance to fall to Gilliead but he fired over from close range with the goal at his mercy.

Just before that chance Rosler had thrown on Hunter and Grant and switched things up from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.

The double substitution paid dividends with Grant and Hunter both instrumental in the build up to the leveler.

An unlikely face too was involved in the build-up, giant defender Bolger had pushed up into an advanced position to slide the ball to Grant before the midfielder rolled it wide to Hunter in acres of space on the right wing. Hunter raced to the back line and fizzed the ball across goal for Cole to tap home in the 68th minute.

Rosler’s third and final sub was to send on ex-Barcelona youth player and right back Elohor Godswill for Schwabl and move McLaughlin into a central midfield role.

And it was McLaughlin who made Town’s second goal. Just seconds after his whirling effort stung the palms of Doyle he was on hand to collect Dempsey’s short corner, drop his shoulder and beat an advancing Bradford player before rolling the ball across goal where McArdle could only divert the ball into his own net in the 82nd minute.

Time and time again Town are finding a fifth gear as the clock rolls on and it was superior fitness levels and some inspired substitutions that lead to them eventually cruising past Stuart McCall’s play-off chasers despite not being near the Bantams for two thirds of this crunch clash.

But like a jilted Valentine McCall’s men fell apart as the game went on as Fleetwood swept in and took the points.

There still looked to be more goals in the game with both sides continuing to attack with Town pushing Hunter up on his own up front and regularly pumping long balls up towards the paceman and Bradford’s Clarke going close with a first time effort.

If this game had taken place back in the first weeks of the season Town would have faced a nervy end to the game but with the calming presence of Bolger and co at the back they got over the line with ease.

But it ended 2-1 as Town picked up yet another home win and retained their grip on fourth spot in the table and stretched their unbeaten run to 15.

Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Eastham, Bolger, Davies, Bell (Hunter, 60), Dempsey, Schwabl (Godswill, 77), Brannagan (Grant, 60), Ball, Cole. Subs not used: Neal, Davis, Nirennold, Glendon, Godswill.

Bradford: Doyle, Darby, Meredith, Law, Vincelot, Wyke, Hiwula (Marshall, 77), Cullen (Clarke, 83), Gilliead, Knight-Percival, McArdle. Subs not used: Sattelmaier, Toner, Dieng, Devine, McMahon.

Referee: Ross Joyce.

Attendance 3418 (1066 away)