Bradford City continued their recent reversal of fortunes with a creditable draw against high-flying Exeter City at Valley Parade.
Building on from convincing wins over Southend United and Tonbridge Angels in league and cup, Billy Clarke gave them an early lead and Reece Staunton scored his first professional goal to secure a 2-2 draw.
With great swings in momentum and plenty of chances for both sides, the result could have been better or worse for the Bantams. Their manager, Stuart McCall, reflected with the media after the match.
On the goals conceded
Bradford had strong reasons to be disappointed with both of the goals that they conceded, with Elliot Watt failing to clear his lines and losing the ball for Exeter’s equaliser before the visitors took the lead soon after as Staunton was beaten to a cross along the ground by Ryan Bowman.
“The downside from our point of view is that we gave two terrible goals away,” admitted McCall. “Both could have been (avoided) against probably the best attacking side that we’ve played.
“You can’t give a good team like them two goals. (It’s) decision-making; Elliot could have got rid of it early and got caught, and Bowman scores from behind Reece when it comes in.
“They’re really poor goals. If they’d scored with a couple of their other opportunities you hold your hands up. But likewise we had that as well.”
On going forward
On the flip side, Bradford have now scored 13 goals in their last four matches – 12 in three if you exclude a second-string line-up’s defeat to Oldham Athletic in the EFL Trophy – and McCall is pleased to see their attack working better than in the early stages of the season.
The Bantams boss was particularly happy with their breakaway first goal, with Callum Cooke providing for Clarke to finish, of which he said:
”It’s a great goal. Clarkey starts on their 18-yard box, Pritch (Harry Pritchard) catches it and we break away. It’s a really good footballing goal from our point of view.”
More generally, McCall added: “I think we’ll be fine going forward. I’ve no problem with that. We’re missing five or six today that would have been in and around it (the team), but I can’t criticise any of the players today. I thought they were excellent today.”
On Billy Clarke
Key to Bradford’s performance was Clarke, who again started in attack alongside Clayton Donaldson and scored his third goal in two games before moving into midfield in the second half.
“Billy might sometimes not be at his best, but he’ll always give you everything he’s got,” said McCall. “But that doesn’t been he’s a terrible signing or a poor player when he has a dip.
“There was nobody more hurt and despondent at his penalty miss at Bolton. He’s bounced back in the last three games and been terrific.
“And people say he can’t play as a striker. Billy’s been playing up there and he’s scored. Obviously a free-kick it doesn’t matter what position you’re playing in, but he’s got a header and he gets a breakaway (goal) there and finishes with aplomb. He was excellent.”
Clarke was substituted late in the game and McCall confirmed that he had a tight hamstring, but expected it to be okay with Clarke himself confirming to the media he should be fine.
McCall will hope that Clarke doesn’t add to his injury list, with strikers Lee Novak (calf) and Kurtis Guthrie (thigh) already sidelined. Zeli Ismail didn’t make his return from a hamstring injury but should be available for next week’s game against Salford City, while McCall confirmed that right-back Bryce Hosannah, on loan from Leeds United, also missed out on the game with a hamstring tear.
“Bryce was missing today, he picked up a little hamstring strain (against Tonbridge),” the manager said. “The scan shows it’s a grade two tear, so possibly three weeks.”
Looking ahead to the week’s rest from action until next weekend’s Salford trip, for which Levi Sutton will return from a three-match ban, McCall said:
“We’ve got a good week’s training now. We’ve got to just concentrate on ourselves now and if we keep improving and playing like we are, then I’m confident we’ll kick on.”