Bradford City ended a five-match winless run in all competitions as a James Vaughan penalty sealed a 1-0 win over Newport County.
The difference between the two sides was much greater than the final scoreline would suggest, with only the lack of clinical touch from the home side making this a real contest.
The only chance Newport created all game was a Bradford one, as an error at the back put Vaughan through on goal in the second half. He was brought down by goalkeeper Nick Townsend and the Bantams skipper converted from the spot to lift his side up to sixth in the League Two table.
Story of the game
Bradford were on the front foot from early on in the game but struggled to create chances. Aramide Oteh was the brightest spark and had two early chances, running himself too wide of the goal for the first after a brilliant flick and then, a couple of minutes later, curling just over after defender Ryan Inniss had done well to hold him up.
Oteh did turn the ball in on the half-hour mark but a foul had already been indicated. His harrying led to the next opportunity as Josh Sheehan gave away a free-kick after being dispossessed and Kelvin Mellor headed Jake Reeves’ resulting delivery over the top.
After 45 minutes in which Newport barely had a touch of the ball in the Bantams third of the pitch, the last chance before the break went again to Oteh after a header by strike partner Vaughan, but he shot into the ground to make it a comfortable save for Townsend.
The Exiles fired an early warning shot in the second half with Tristan Abrahams close after dispossessing Reeves, but the ground only came to life when a foul by Oteh brought Gary Bowyer and Michael Flynn into a passionate disagreement on the touchline which earned both yellow cards.
When a Bradford goal finally did come, it was caused by a Newport error, as Inniss tried to pass back to his keeper but found only Vaughan bearing down on goal.
Townsend brought the striker down as he tried to go round him and a penalty was inevitable, although City were incensed that he only received a yellow card. Nonetheless, Bradford’s top scorer Vaughan was spot-on to find the net for the seventh time this season with the penalty.
The atmosphere was turned up following the goal and Bradford responded with further pressure. The visitors could be very relieved that Townsend stayed on the pitch as he produced a fantastic save to palm Oteh’s header onto the crossbar following a Reeves free-kick.
Townsend’s next save inflicted great pain as he blocked Paudie O’Connor’s effort with his face. After receiving treatment he found his goal under further threat as Chris Taylor and Anthony O’Connor missed further chances, and Newport could find nothing in response in nine minutes of added time.
Takeaways from the game
Oteh shows bright promise
Ben Reeves was his usual threatening self from set pieces but the most dangerous player in open play was Aramide Oteh. The 21-year-old, on loan from Championship side QPR, always made himself available for a pass, made promising runs, held the ball up excellently and worked hard when his side were out of possession to quickly win it back.
He gave the Newport defence no time to settle all game and chances came his way as a result. While a record of three goals in 14 games shows that he is far from a clinical finisher yet, missing several chances including a free header in the centre of the box, he was the biggest threat all game and has huge promise.
Exiles left out in the cold
Newport haven’t won a league game since mid-October, slipping from the automatic promotion places to 12th. For a side who reached the play-off final in May, this was another hugely disappointing performance as they fell to a fourth consecutive League Two defeat with hardly a whimper.
They barely had a touch of the ball in the Bradford box all game and only a registered one shot on target, a tame effort from distance deep into injury time. A more clinical opposition would have made this a comfortable defeat and, if the Welsh side want to be anywhere near the top seven again at the end of this season, the alarming slide needs to be halted soon.