Brett Pitman’s 90th-minute goal for Bristol Rovers meant that Bradford had to settle for a point in a game where most would agree they did enough to win. The result left Bradford players and fans frustrated, as a victory would have taken them into a playoff position.
Despite a bright start from the Bantams, captain Paudie O’Connor very nearly gifted Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers side an opener. O’Connor took just a second too long on the ball, and when attempting to release the ball, saw his pass deflected into the path of Harvey Saunders inside the area. Fortunately for O’Connor, Richard O’Donnell was quick off his line to gather the ball, but the City ‘keeper required lengthy on-field treatment following a collision with Saunders, which saw the Rovers forward booked.
The three-minute delay in play didn’t disrupt Bradford’s attacking momentum, but it wasn’t until the mid-point in the half that Derek Adam’s side were able to create a clear opportunity on goal. Following a long ball up-field from O’Donnell and some neat one-touch link-up play on the edge of the area, Callum Cooke was played in behind the Rovers backline. With the ball bouncing and Rovers ‘keeper James Belshaw closing the angle down, Cooke saw his effort just go over the bar.
Soon after, a teasing cross into the area by Liam Ridehalgh was met by City captain O’Connor, who saw his header just creep wide of Belshaw’s goal. This attack would be one of Ridehalgh’s final contributions, as he was replaced by Matty Foulds on the half-hour mark after picking up an injury.
Bradford finally managed to make their pressure count in the 41st minute. A Callum Cooke corner was headed goalward by Yann Songo’o who saw his header saved by Belshaw. However, the Rovers ‘keeper could only parry the ball into the path of Charles Vernam, who tapped in from close range to give City a deserved lead going into the second half.
Although, just three minutes into the second half, Rovers equalised. Joey Barton’s half time team talk had worked, as Alfie Kilgour headed a tantalising corner ball into the back of the Bradford net to draw Rovers level.
However, Rovers work to get back level was completely undone just a minute later. In Bradford’s next attack following the equaliser, Callum Cooke played in Charles Vernam on the left-hand side, whose low cross was fired into the roof of the net by Andy Cook for his sixth goal of the season.
Bradford were well and truly back on the front foot, and they thought they had doubled their lead in the 66th minute. Callum Cooke crossed in a beautiful ball from a free kick which saw Andy Cook head in what he thought was City’s third goal of the afternoon. Unfortunately for City, the linesman had raised his flag for offside, meaning Rovers were still in the game.
Derek Adams’ men were unable to make their pressure count, and heading into the final ten minutes, saw themselves sitting deeper in their own half. This tactic of trying to see out the three points didn’t work.
Just as the fourth official signalled there would be three minutes of added time, Rovers equalised once again. A cross in from the right wing found experienced striker Brett Pitman on the edge of the box, whose looping header hit the back of the Bradford net, sparking wild celebrations from the travelling Rovers fans.
Even though there was only three minutes added time, there was still chance for even more late drama. The ball found Oscar Threlkeld on the right edge of the Bristol Rovers box. Despite there being a number of Bradford attackers in the box, Threlkeld opted to shoot, almost catching out Belshaw who found himself in No Man’s Land.
To the annoyance of Bradford fans, that was the last chance of the game, as the referee blew for full time soon after. The feeling of drawing is becoming all too familiar for the Bantams, who have now drawn five of their twelve league games this season. Following a goal and an assist, Charles Vernam was voted Man of the Match by City fans, who will be hoping that the Bantams can pick up all three points at home to Hartlepool on Tuesday night.