Exeter City completed a double for the season over Capital One Cup finalists Bradford City with a superb 4-1 victory at St James Park.
City’s first goal had a touch of fortune about it when Bantams goalkeeper Matt Duke bundled into his own net, and a debut goal from loanee Lawson D’Ath
put the hosts two up at the break.
Kyel Reid cut City’s lead to a single goal late in the second half, but strikes by Scot Bennett
and John O’Flynn
put the sheen on a great victory and an important three points in the race for promotion.
Amongst the starting XI for the Grecians was D’Ath, signed the day before on loan from Reading. The youngster took a starting berth in central midfield, while John O’Flynn
led the line alone with Jamie Cureton
starting on the bench.
It was the second game in Devon in a week for the Bantams, who had drawn 0-0 with Plymouth on Tuesday evening at Home Park. The visitors, with injury worries of their own, rang five changes from the midweek game.
Following a dry morning, the game started amidst a downpour of hail as the weather made the conditions less than favourable for the purists.
And no sooner had the game begun than it was stopped again, as injuries to the two Bradford centre-halves brought the game to a halt. A ball up from Craig Woodman
was searching for lone striker John O’Flynn
, and a bout of miscommunication between Andrew Davies and Michael Nelson saw both go for the same ball and clash heads.
Both looked in a lot of pain, but it was Davies in particular that was the slowest to get up. He eventually declined the stretcher and was able to continue without having to force Phil Parkinson to make an early call to the subs bench.
After the ten-minute mark, City made the breakthrough with the touch of fortune that they had been craving at home. The Grecians won a right-flank corner which Woodman whipped inswinging on his left boot – and as goalkeeper Matt Duke pushed the cross onto the post, it rebounded off the back of his head and into the net to open the scoring.
The Bantams had two golden chances in quick succession to draw level – firstly Garry Thompson suddenly escaped to latch onto a through-ball down the inside-left channel. After stepping round Danny Coles
, the striker aimed to shoot but Woodman arrived with a late block and the ball ricocheted behind off a City leg.
From the resulting corner, a header back from Carl McHugh allowed Andrew Davies to lash a volley inside the six-yard box – but the Bradford defender snatched his chance and walloped high over the bar.
The conditions were making for a rough-and-tumble sort of game in the first half, and stoppages had to be made for another all-Bradford coming-together between Davies and Nathan Doyle, as well as a clash of heads which left City man O’Flynn needing to be patched up on the sidelines.
Bradford were exerting a lot of pressure but failing to find the final pass, and the Grecians nearly went two goals up against the run of play when Kevin Amankwaah
’s long throw allowed Scot Bennett
to improvise an effort from a tight angle, but it flew harmlessly into the side netting.
But the Grecians did find the net for the second time before the interval, with a debut goal for D’Ath. Jake Gosling
, cutting inside from the right, saw a cross deflected which looped upwards, allowing the midfielder to beat Duke to the ball at the far post to net his first goal in a red and white shirt.
Half-time: Exeter City 2 Bradford City 0
The Bantams started the second period with two very different threats on the field in the shape of half-time subs Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines, as Phil Parkinson looked to change the approach.
And Hines nearly had an early impact by knocking the ball down into the path of rangy striker James Hanson, who moved the ball into a yard of space to shoot left-footed – but his effort, from outside the area, flashed just wide of the upright with Artur Krysiak
diving to cover.
At the other end of the field, a slick City attacking move looked to have broken down before Amankwaah kept the ball alive and fed Bennett to shoot from 25 yards. The midfielder struck a curling effort goalwards but it was central and allowed Duke to pick it out of the air.
Much like the first half, the Grecians were put under a lengthy spell of pressure by the visitors and the introduction of the wingers at half-time meant for a very different threat. Low balls in from the byline nearly caught the hosts out on a few occasions, but on every occasion there were no takers to turn in at the far post.
But it was a Reid cross – from much deeper this time – that gave the Bantams a glorious opportunity to peg back the Grecians. He curled a ball into the corridor of uncertainty that Krysiak wasn’t sure whether to stick or twist on – but Hanson drilled his effort over the bar on the stretch.
Moments later Reid chanced his arm from 25 yards from wide on the left, but his straight effort fizzed wide of the far post with Krysiak watching it all the way.
, on as a sub, was almost gifted a goal when Duke – under pressure by O’Flynn – shanked a clearance right into the midfielder’s path in the centre circle. With the goal untended, a better first-touch by Keohane might have allowed him a route to goal, but he couldn’t quite control the pinged clearance and it was recovered by the Bradford defence.
And suddenly nervousness set in when Reid – who had been the Bantams’ brightest spark since the break – whipped in a corner left-footed from the right-hand side. It may have taken a touch on the way through – but the ball nestled in the back of the net to reduce the arrears.
However the Grecians had re-established the two-goal cushion within five minutes as O’Flynn stepped over inside the box to lay in Bennett – and the midfielder’s shot from outside the D took a deflection on the way through and hit the net.
City wrapped up the win soon after with a quick break, as the Bantams had over-committed. Keohane led the charge and fed Molesley in the left-hand channel, and the former Bournemouth man put the ball on a plate for O’Flynn to grab a goal of his own right on the line.
It might have been even more comprehensive when Arron Davies
shot goalwards deep into added time, but Duke fielded the ball well – not that many City fans cared, following an excellent 4-1 victory.
Full-time: Exeter City 4 Bradford City 1
Exeter City: Krysiak; Amankwaah, Baldwin, Coles, Woodman; Davies, Bennett, D’Ath (Keohane 63), Molesley, Gosling (Tully 82); O’Flynn.
Subs (not used): Evans, Cureton, Bauza, Dawson, Moore-Taylor.
Goals: Duke o.g. (11), D’Ath (45), Bennett (84), O’Flynn (89).
Bradford City: Duke; McHugh, Nelson (Wells 85), Davies, Darby; Doyle (Reid h-t), Jones, Atkinson; Connell; Thompson (Hines h-t), Hanson.
Subs (not used): McLaughlin, Meredith, Ravenhill, Reid, Hines, McArdle.
Goal: Reid (79).
Attendance: 4,199 (251 away)
Referee: G. Salisbury