Bradford City 0-0 Stockport County

The Hatters were on the road again for the second time in three days, and returned from across the Pennines with another away-point after a goal-less stalemate at in-form Bradford City.

It was a third successive draw between the two sides, and a hard-earned one for the Hatters on a challenging playing surface, and in front of the largest attendance they had faced since returning to the Football League.

The high winds and the heaviest of the downpours brought in the last couple of days by Storm Gerrit had largely subsided by match-night – although rain over West Yorkshire during that time had taken its toll to a not-inconsiderable extent on the Valley Parade pitch, which had to pass an inspection 90 minutes ahead of kick-off.

By the time the Hatters took to the field on a still-drizzly Friday evening, and for the last time in 2023, they showed three changes from the line-up that had begun on Boxing Day at Barrow. Skipper Paddy Madden, Nick Powell and Akil Wright, all of whom appeared for at least half of that contest (and two of whom had scored) in Cumbria, were handed starts – replacing Neill Byrne, Ryan Croasdale and Kyle Wootton, who each featured on the County bench. Sixteen-year-old left-back Joe Hillary, having made his senior debut at Salford in the EFL Trophy during the first half of October, was also named among the substitutes.

The hosting ‘Bantams’, who were unbeaten for seven matches in all competitions, boasted no ex-Hatters in their side – although did include, in goalkeeper Harry Lewis, the grandson of County’s legendary Number One from six decades earlier, the late Ken Mulhearn.

County earned the evening’s first corner – delivered by Kyle Knoyle from the left – immediately following which Powell had two shots blocked in quick succession, before Ibby Touray fired one over the crossbar.

Half a dozen minutes later, the hosts won an inaugural corner of their own, after Clarke Oduor intercepted within the Hatters’ half, wove his way into the box and unleashed a low shot that deflected off Knoyle and beyond the left post.

Just after the quarter-hour mark, Oduor struck again – from the edge of the box, this time – and once more saw his effort fizz shy of the left upright. And, at the other end, Powell connected with a Knoyle free-kick from the right to head past the near post.

After another dozen minutes, Liam Ridehalgh’s cross from the left picked out Alex Gilliead, whose half-volley cleared the bar. And Tanto Olaofe had the ball in the opposite goal with just over 10 minutes of the half remaining – only to be flagged offside, after being played through by Madden.

HALF-TIME: Bradford City 0, County 0. 

The Hatters made a double-substitution upon the resumption, bringing on Croasdale and Wootton. as they began kicking towards more than 2,400 travelling fans – although Bradford fashioned the first chance of the new half, as Oduor squared from the left by-line for Tyler Smith, whose close-range shot was blocked superbly by Ethan Pye.

Touray then fired into the left side-netting from the edge of the increasingly heavy pitch – which also played a part when Croasdale was deceived by the lack of bounce and failed to make contact with his air-shot, after a tee-up from Wootton on the right.

Leading Bradford scorer Andy Cook blasted a couple of attempts over, before heading a Brad Halliday cross from the right wide of the near post, and then being denied by Ben Hinchliffe who tipped the striker’s goal-bound shot behind.

Eleven minutes from time, Fraser Horsfall rose highest to connect with a Knoyle free-kick from the right – but his header lacked pace, and was comfortably gathered up by Lewis. Two minutes later, Wootton kept his balance well, before drilling on the turn past the right post. And, in added time, Pye prodded wide of the near post, following Touray’s corner from the right.

Results elsewhere increased County’s lead at the top of the table to five points, and, with Mansfield moving into the position immediately behind, set up rather neatly a ‘first-v-second’ encounter for New Year’s Day at Edgeley Park.

FULL-TIME: Bradford City 0, County 0. 

Team (5-3-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall, Pye; Knoyle, Powell (Croasdale, 46), Camps, Bailey, Touray; Madden (Capt.), Olaofe (Wootton, 46).

Unused Subs: J. Smith, Byrne, Richardson, Johnson, Hillary.

Booked: Touray, Wright.

Attendance: 19,657 (2,404 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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