npower League 2 action from the Coral Windows StadiumBurton Albion are play-off bound as a disappointing defeat at Bradford City coupled with results elsewhere mean that automatic promotion is now almost impossible. The Brewers gifted Bradford their goal just before half time as Marcus Holness and Dean Lyness got in a muddle to present James Hanson with a relatively simple finish. The first half ended with Albion down to ten men as Lee Bell saw red for an elbow on Zavon Hines and from then on Albion were decidedly up against it.
Brewers boss Gary Rowett assessed his options and went for a double change in attack as Albion went in search of the points needed to remain in the hunt for automatic promotion. Calvin Zola completed his return to fitness and partnered Matt Paterson in a new look forward line. Both Billy Kee and Michael Symes dropped to the bench.
With Valley Parade bathed in spring sunshine there was a vibrant feel to the game when it kicked off after an impecably observed minutes silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic fire of 1985.
Bradford had the early pressure but were unable to penetrate the Brewers rearguard. Marcus Holness had to head clear when Kyel Reid's left wing cross came into the box and Dean Lyness was smartly off his line to cut out a low cross from Garry Thompson.
Albion's first real chance came in the eleventh minute when Damien McCrory swung in a dangerous free kick after Calvin Zola was fouled forty yards out. The free kick drifted over the heads of the Bantams defence but when Matt Paterson forced a good save from Jon McLaughlin the offside flag had already gone up.
The home side certainly had their tails up as they went looking for the result that would enhance their play-off chances and there was danger when Albion momentarily switched off at the back and allowed Stephen Darby to drill a low ball into the six yard area but Ian Sharps was on hand to hack the ball clear of danger.
The home side suffered a blow on 19 minutes. Lively winger Kyel Reid, a fitness doubt before the game went down under a challenge to the right of the penalty area but despite getting treatment on the pitch he had to come off and was replaced by former West Ham winger Zavon Hines.
Bradford started to assert themselves on the game and when Anthony O'Connor was booked for a foul on James Meredith in the 23rd minute it allowed the home side to put some severe pressure on the Albion defence. O'Connor got back inside his own six yard box to head the free kick away for a corner but Bradford kept the pressure on. Albion's defence stood firm and regrouped to see off the immediate threat.
Garry Thompson was a key player on the wing for City and he almost created the first goal on 32 minutes. Getting the ball out wide on the right he made a yard on Damien McCrory to sling in a cross to the back post and James Hanson was there first, just unable to steer his header on target.
Albion won themselves a series of corner kicks and from the third of these Zola was inches away from making contact with Alex MacDonald's delivery with keeper McLaughlin having to hastily punch the ball away from danger.
The Brewers were close to snatching the lead on 42 minutes. Maghoma showed great skill to cut inside two men and make roon for a shot but striking it across goal he could only watch as McLaughlin stretched himself to tip it away.
A minute before the break and Bradford were ahead with a soft goal gifted to them by the Brewers. A long ball forward looked harmless enough but when it bounced and Dean Lyness hesitated to come for it there was trouble as Holness tried to head it back to him. Nahki Wells anticipated and got in the way and although he couldnt get a shot away the ball bobbled about and fell for James HANSON to hook the ball home despite the presence of Ian Sharps on the line.
The first half was in stoppage time when Albion's task became even greater. A bouncing ball on the half way line was there to be won but Lee Bell went in and made contact on Hines with an elbow. Referee Andy Woolmer had no hesitation in producing the red card which ends Bell's season. A four game ban coming for him as a result of his actions ruling him out of the play-offs entirely.
Half time: Bradford City 1-0 Burton Albion
Albion were forced into a change at half time to restore their formation and it was Matt Paterson that was sacrificed to allow Jack Dyer to slot into the middle of the park alongside Robbie Weir. The Brewers were close to grabbing an equaliser early in the second half from a corner. Alex MacDonald swung the set piece in beyond the far post and Marcus Holness header down was flicked over the crossbar by Ian Sharps.
Hanson almost thundered home a second for Bradford as he won a fifty fifty ball in midfield and burst towards goal before firing wide.
Ian Sharps picked up a yellow card for a foul on Nahki Wells that allowed Bradford to test off the Brewers defence but a poor delivery from Gary Jones made Albion's job of clearing their lines easy.
Roared on by over almost 13,000 home fans Bradford went looking for a second to effectively kill the game off. Garry Thompson tested Lyness from distance on 57 minutes but his drive was pushed away to safety by the Albion stopper.
Albion made their second change just before the hour mark and with Calvin Zola tiring after his injury absence it was no surprise that he was the man to make way as Billy Kee entered the fray.
When Albion had a corner just after the hour mark there was a chance for Albion when the ball fell for Maghoma just outside the box however the midfielder was leaning back all the time and he lifted the ball high into the upper tier of the stand behind the goal.
Hanson forced Lyness into a good save, tipping the ball over the crossbar and the two clashed in the six yard box shortly after, challenging for a high ball that left both requiring treatment.
Burton were still creating chances and some good link up play between Maghoma and Damien McCrory down the left opened up an opportunity for the left back to cut inside onto his weaker right foot and curl an effort beyond the far post.
Albion's afternoon got worse on 75 minutes. Turning to try and latch onto the ball Jack Dyer fell awkwardly and stayed down. After lengthy treatment the stretcher was called for and the young midfielder left the pitch to generous applause from all four sides of the ground. Michael Symes was the man to replace the unfortunate Albion youngster as Albion regrouped again.
It should have been 2-0 to Bradford on 80 minutes after some intricate play around the Albion box. the ball fell kindly for substitute Will Atkinson but all he could do was tamely stab the ball wide of the post.
Alan Connell, another Bradford sub almost put the seal on Bradford's victory with a rasping shot just over the bar quickly followed by a low drive that flew just wide of the far upright. Zavon Hines then made a glaring miss in the final minute as he got inside the six yard box before inexplicably lifting his chip wide of the far post. It really was easier to score.
In the end it mattered little that Hines fluffed his shot so badly as the points were safely Bradford's and Albion now find themselves playing for position in the end of season play-offs when they face champions Gillingham next week.
BRADFORD: McLaughlin, Darby, Meredith, Ravenhill, Reid, Hanson, Thompson, Jones, Wells, Nelson, McArdle. Substitutes: Duke, Gray, Atkinson, McHugh, Connell, Hines, Doyle.
ALBION: Lyness; O'Connor, Sharps, Holness, McCrory; MacDonald, Bell, Weir, Maghoma; Zola, Paterson. Substitutes: Tomlinson, Webster, Diamond, Dyer, Drury, Kee, Symes.
Referee: Mr. A.Woolmer (Northamptonshire)
GOALS: Bradford - Hanson (44)
Attendance: 13,235 (420 away)