Burton Albion picked up their first win in five games as they picked up a vital 1-0 victory over high flying Bradford City thanks to Calvin Zola's sixth goal of the season. The rangy striker dived to break the deadlock in the 81st minute with a thumping header as ten man Bradford looked to be on course to hold out after they played more than half the game a man light after the controversial sending off of skipper Ricky Ravenhill. A midfield coming together with Lee Bell exploded as former Premiership referee Andy D'Urso adjudged there to have been a headbutt from Ravenhill as both players squared up.
Gary Rowett gave an instant debut to Hull City goalkeeper Mark Oxley after the youngster penned a one month loan deal on Friday. There were two other changes to the side that drew with Port Vale on tuesday as defender Nathan Stanton returned to the centre of defence in place of Rob Kiernan and there was a recall in attack for Billy Kee in place of Matt Paterson.
Burton started brightly and a teasing free kick from Lee Bell had to be hurriedly cleared inside the six yard box by former Stoke man Andrew Davies.
Albion continued to press but only had an angled shot from Maghoma to show for their efforts.
Bradford finally ventured into Burton territory but keeper Oxley's first meaningful action was to gratefully clutch a speculative effort from Nathan Doyle in the 16th minute.
Albion pressed again but couldnt quite create a clear opening as Maghoma scooped the ball in for Calvin Zola who in turn put the ball into the path of Kee who was just denied a shot as Luke Oliver nipped in to dispossess him.
They came closer still moments later when a flowing move ended with a low cross from Cleveland Taylor than cannoned off defender Rory McArdle before McLaughlin was able to pick it up before it crossed the line.
Bradford came alive again just before the hour mark as some generous Albion defending gave them a chance, winger Garry Thompson unchallenged as he flicked on a throw in towards a dangerous area and Ricky Ravenhill poked an effort wide.
It was the last action for Ravenhill as he was controversially sent off in the 32nd minute. The Bantams skipper fouled Lee Bell and as the two got to their feet they seemed to square up to one another with referee Andy D'Urso deeming the Bradford man more the aggressor with a headbutt and showing him a straight red card, Bell receiving a yellow for his part in the skirmish.
Before Bradford could reorganise Billy Kee had a snapshot saved by McLaughlin and by the time 36 minute were on the clock the Bantams had made two changes. Experienced midfielder Gary Jones was brought on for Alan Connell to restore the midfield numbers and with Luke Oliver clearly struggling with an injury Stephen Darby was introduced to the defence.
Bradford came forward and from an inswinging corner James Hanson won another corner as it was adjudged to have been deflected behind.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-0 Bradford City
Bradford made their third substitution at the start of the second half with Andrew Davies not appearing and Carl McHugh coming on to replace him.
Damien McCrory swung in an early free kick after Robbie Weir was fouled near the touchline and Zander Diamond got up well to steer a header wide of the goal.
Albion began to crank up the pressure and they should probably have taken the lead on 55 minutes as they had Bradford penned in. Zola and Maghoma worked some intricate passes in the box before the latter chipped agonisingly against the face of the crossbar and with the Bradford defence at sixes and sevens the ball was played back in for Kee who had a shot deflected into the path of Cleveland Taylor who was then denied by McLaughlin from a tight angle.
Maghoma was increasingly looking like Albion's best attacking threat and after a sublime piece of skill from Bell the winger teased his way into a shooting position only to curl an effort agonisingly wide of the post.
Bradford briefly broke free of their defensive shackles but winger Garry Thompson could only fire a curling effort well wide of the target on 68 minutes.
After penning Bradford in again but not quite being able to get a shot away Albion made their first change on 73 minutes. It was another chance for young Jordan Chapell to impress after his goalscoring debut on Tuesday. The Sheffield United youngster very quickly found an excellent cross from the right that was perfect for Kee but he somehow managed to put his header wide of the post.
Albion finally unlocked the key to the Bradford defence in the 81st minute. Nathan Stanton found an excellent ball forward that McCrory capitalised on when Stephen Darby missed his clearance. The Irishman calmly controlled the ball before crossing the ball for ZOLA to dive full length and head home.
The game threatened to descend into unleasantness as Bradford quickly picked up a couple of bookings. Nathan Doyle picked up the first for an aerial challenge on Bell and Rory McArdle followed quickly after for a rash lunging challenge on Jacques Maghoma in front of the dug outs.
Fortunately calmness was restored and in stoppage time Bradford had a half chance to grab a point but Gary Jones was wayward with his finishing from the edge of the box.
BREWERS: Oxley; O'Connor, Diamond, Stanton, McCrory; Taylor, Weir, Bell, Maghoma; Zola, Kee. Substitutes: Richards, Lyness, Paterson, Dyer, Kiernan, Rooney, Chapell.
BRADFORD: McLaughlin, Meredith, Ravenhill, Davies, Oliver, Hanson, Thompson, Forsyth, Connell, McArdle, Doyle. Substitutes: Darby, R.Jones, Duke, Atkinson, McHugh, G.Jones, Hines.
Referee: Mr. A.D'Urso (Essex)
GOALS: Burton - Zola (81)