Bradford City 3 Pompey 1: Neil Allen’s match report

Pompey concede their third goal at Bradford. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey concede their third goal at Bradford. Picture: Joe Pepler
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On the anniversary of Pompey’s League Two escape, another promotion dream started to fade under the Valley Parade sky.

Kenny Jackett encountered a Bradford City side treasuring a mere one win from their previous 15 outings in a plight which devastated play-off ambitions.

The Bantams last night tasted victory once again, however, to deal a sizeable blow to the visitors’ own aspirations of finishing in League One’s top six.

Unfortunately, unlike Meadow Lane a year to the day earlier, there was no late Jamal Lowe heroics, no super substitute showing, just defeat with three matches remaining.

Pompey can point the finger at themselves as contributors to their own downfall in the 3-1 loss which could prove so costly.

Lax moments of defending were behind Nat Knight-Percival’s opener, substitute Matt Lund’s strike with 19 minutes remaining and then Charlie Wyke’s injury-time goal.

Brett Pitman had actually drawn the Blues level on 61 minutes – a stunning left-foot shot from 25 yards claiming his 23rd of a prolific campaign.

It was deserved for the visitors who, invigorated by Stuart O’Keefe and Oli Hawkins’ introduction from the bench, upped the tempo and their performance.

Regardless of their impact, the Blues had long shaded the match and always seemed capable of hauling themselves back from a 14th-minute deficit.

As it was, Lund slid home a finish on 71 minutes which condemned Jackett’s men to a first defeat in seven matches – a run which catapulted them into play-off contention.

Wyke pouncing from close range after Luke McGee failed to hold Tony McMahon’s free-kick in injury time merely compounded the miserly and highlighted defensive fragility on the night.

Play-off hopes remain alive, irrespective of the result, yet results elsewhere have left Pompey one point and two places behind Scunthorpe, ahead of rivals’ Charlton’s Fratton Park visit on Saturday.

For the trip to Valley Parade, Connor Ronan had earned a recall to the side after impressing as a substitute in the goalless draw at Plymouth.

That 32-minute cameo had convinced Jackett to start the Wolves loanee in place of O’Keefe in the centre of midfield.

It represented the only change to the team which collected that Home Park point, as the Blues continue to maintain a settled line-up.

O’Keefe instead dropped to the bench, with Adam May earning a spot among the substitutes in place of Sylvain Deslandes.

As for hosts Bradford, they were unchanged for the fixture, seeking to end a run of one win in 15 matches.

Pompey began brightly, dictating early play, and Nathan Thompson won a free-kick on six minutes in a dangerous position 30 yards from goal.

That was delivered by the right foot of Ben Close but the referee soon blew for a foul by Matt Clarke inside the penalty area as the ball arrived.

Bradford won the opening corner of the game on 14 minutes off Dion Donohue – and it produced the breakthrough.

Tony McMahon delivered it from the right, the ball was flicked on by Matt Kilgallon and there was Knight-Percival arriving at the far post to steer it home from a tight angle.

Pompey’s defending could be called into question, yet Donohue was careless in giving away the corner in the first place.

The left-back he could have kicked the ball into touch rather than allowing Alex Gilliead to force him to concede the set-piece from which the opener arrived.

The Blues won their first corner on 26 minutes, courtesy of Lowe.

But Donohue’s delivery from the right was headed comfortably wide by Clarke.

There was then a scare for the visitors when a free-kick from the Bantams’ half found its way into the box, with Wyke and Clarke muscling for possession.

Thankfully for Pompey, McGee was swiftly off his line to claim the ball narrowly ahead of Wyke making a potential connection.

On 33 minutes, Ronan fired in a right-foot shot from 25 yards which had Bradford keeper Colin Doyle pushing the ball away for a corner.

Kal Naismith played a quick, short delivery and soon Close won a free-kick on the edge of the area.

That was taken by Pitman, whose low right-foot shot was saved down by his post by Doyle.

With half-time approaching, Gareth Evans was penalised for a high foot on Timothee Dieng, although Knight-Percival’s connection with the free-kick ensured it as well wide of the target.

After the break, an excellent move saw Naismith feed Evans down the right and his precise cross looked certain to be netted by Lowe, only for a block to intervene – while the flag went up for offside.

At the other end, Gilliead controlled the ball on his chest and half-volleyed a right-foot effort over the bar from the angle.

On 55 minutes, Evans’ cross from the right ricocheted fortuitously into the path of Thompson inside the penalty area.

But the Pompey defender’s curling left-foot shot screwed wide.

That signalled a double substitution from Jackett, with Evans and Ronan replaced by O’Keefe and Hawkins – and Pompey going to a 4-2-3-1.

Lowe then pulled back a low cross from the right and Close’s first-time right-foot shot on the run was poked just over the bar from the edge of the box.

Yet Pompey were level on 61 minutes following a stunning Pitman strike.

O’Keefe laid the ball inside and, from 25 yards out, the Blues skipper rifled in a left-footed strike which crashed into the bottom corner of the net. The Blues seized control of the match yet, following a spell of head tennis, they again contributed to their own downfall.

Clarke and Donohue looked in command of the situation as the ball bounced towards goalkeeper McGee.

But somehow Lund slid in a shot which found its way in the net to make it 2-1.

Tyrell Robinson was stretchered off on 84 minutes, prompting nine minutes to be added on to the encounter.

However, rather than find an equaliser, the deficit lengthened when McGee failed to hold McMahon’s free-kick and Wyke pounced from close range to make it 3-1 and a miserable night at Bradford.