A first half strike from Billy Knott was enough to beat Notts County 1-0 at Bradford City.
The Magpies had chances in the first half through Jake Cassidy and Ryan Hall, Cassidy’s shot clipping the post, whilst Hall’s shot from distance just looped over the bar.
With minutes to go until half-time, Bradford took the lead through Billy Knott after a mix up in the Notts defence presented Knott with the ball, which he then fired past Roy Carroll to put the home side ahead.
Bradford had further chances to extend their lead, most noticeably through Francois Zoko, whose shot just missed the far post.
However, the one goal was enough for Bradford to take the three points and put a stop to Notts unbeaten away record.
Four changes were made for the trip to Bradford by Shaun Derry following the 1-0 defeat against MK Dons at Meadow Lane on Boxing Day. Mustapha Dumbuya, Ryan Hall, Jake Cassidy and Gary Jones all returned to the first eleven, whilst Ronan Murray, Drissa Traore, Colby Bishop and Mike Edwards took their place on the substitute’s bench.
Gary Jones was restored to the heart of midfield, after coming on against MK Dons, to play against his former club Bradford where he spent two seasons before moving to the Magpies. Mustapha Dumbuya was also back in the side, playing his first game since the 1-0 victory over Doncaster in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the beginning of December. Garry Thompson too retained his place in the starting line-up to play against his former club. Again, he spent two years with Bradford.
In the Bradford side, former Notts players Gary Liddle, Stephen Darby, Alan Sheehan and Francois Zoko featured amongst the eighteen players, to play against their former club, the latter two started from the bench.
It was Bradford who started the better of the two sides during the opening five minutes, receiving a few set-pieces from dangerous positions. Notts defended well however to deny them from taking an early lead. Andy Halliday had a good opportunity early on, a slip allowed Halliday in on goal, he took the ball around Roy Carroll, but couldn’t capitalise on almost open goal, only Haydn Hollis stood in the way. Halliday scooped it over from a difficult angle.
A second opportunity fell to Bradford moments later. Gary Liddle played Billy Knott in the area with plenty of space around him. He controlled well, and turned, but couldn’t find the top corner, bending his shot just over.
Notts did carve out a couple of half chances during the opening 15 minutes. A freekick from the edge of the box was hit by Gary Jones, but it flicked off the wall and out for a corner. From the resulting corner, Jones crossed onto the head of Garry Thompson, but he couldn’t guide his header towards goal, as the chance fizzled out.
Notts got into the game more as it went along, Jake Cassidy was doing well up front, winning headers and showing good control, before offloading it to a teammate. It was the striker who had Notts first significant chance of the game. Stephen McLaughlin laid the ball off for Cassidy who hit it first time, the keeper managed to get a fingertip on it before the ball hit the post and went wide.
Down the other end great work from James Meredith down the left allowed him to pull the ball across goal, where Halliday was waiting in space inside the box. He hit it first time but couldn’t find the target, blazing it over from 10 yards out. James Hanson too had a chance inside the box, his header going wide from a cross out wide.
With less than ten minutes to go until half-time, the Magpies had a great chance to go ahead. Good work from Garry Thompson allowed him to play the ball to Ryan Hall who was with him in support. Hall hit it first time and it looked to be looping in from the edge of the box, but it went narrowly over, with Jordan Pickford back peddling.
Despite Notts being the better side for the last 10 minutes, Bradford went ahead with only minutes till half-time. A mix up at the back meant Notts lost the ball on the edge of the area. Billy Knott picked up the ball and took a shot which flew past Carroll and into the back of the net to give the home side the lead.
HT: Bradford 1 - 0 Notts County
Notts made a change at half time with Colby Bishop coming on for Ryan Hall and made an impact. He was fouled about 45 yards from goal to win Notts a freekick. McLaughlin took and Haydn Hollis got a head to it, but it went over from inside the box.
Bradford got forward well on several occasions causing Notts to do some important defending at the back to keep it at only a goal between them and Bradford. A miskick from Carroll fell to Billy Knott inside the centre circle. He took a touch and looked up to shoot into an empty net, but a fantastic tackle from Gary Jones denied Knott from getting his strike away.
Bradford were in control this second half, with Notts struggling to take hold of any possession. The pitch wasn’t in the best condition at this point, meaning Notts were looking to pump the ball up when they could. There weren’t many chances coming for either side, with Bradford putting a lot of crosses into the box, but Hollis and Hayden Mullins were doing well to clear all that was thrown at them.
Bradford were very close to going two goals ahead with 20 minutes left to play. Notts pushed forward looking to get an equaliser allowing Bradford to counter attack. Billy Knott was the man who enforced the attack, running at the Notts defence before playing out wide to James Hanson. Hanson took a touch and looked to bend it into the far corner, but Roy Carroll got across well and tipped the ball wide of the post.
Notts were trying to get at Bradford. A Garry Thompson long throw eventually fell to Gary Jones, who hit a shot on the volley, which was well blocked by the Bradford defence. Stephen McLaughlin also had a chance from outside the box, his volley going wide, with Pickford stretching for the ball.
McLaughlin again had a chance with nine minutes to go. A ball pumped up for Colby Bishop fell to McLaughlin on the edge of the area, he ran into the box, and had options to the right of him, but went for goal himself, hitting over from inside the area.
With only minutes go, Notts were still in the game a goal down, Roy Carroll was looking to get the ball forward at every opportunity, but the Bradford defence were staying strong at the back and giving Notts nothing they could capitalise on.
Going into injury time, Bradford thought they had their second goal of the game. Former Notts striker Francois Zoko burst into the box and placed a shot for the far corner and it looked to be going in. The Bradford fans expected it nestle into the far corner, but it trickled agonisingly wide for the home fans, keeping the score at 1-0. That was the final moment of the game, with Bradford claiming the win.
FT: Bradford 1 - 0 Notts County