Derek Adams’s Bantams picked up 2 points from their final Papa John’s Trophy group game, after beating League 1 Sunderland on penalties. Both sides knew their fate before kick-off, with Sunderland already guaranteed to progress to the knockout stages, and Bradford already knocked out of the competition. However, the game allowed Adams to give valuable game time to a number of players who haven’t featured regularly this season.
The game began evenly, and it took until the midway point of the first half for either goalkeeper to be properly tested. Following a Callum Cooke corner, the ball fell to Fiacre Kelleher, one of those gaining valuable game time for City, who turned and shot with his left foot. However, Bayern Munich loanee Ron-Thorben Hoffmann was able to hold on the ball after an impressive dive across goal.
It was another 15 minutes before there was another clear chance on goal, and this time it resulted in a goal for the Bantams. Another Callum Cooke corner eventually found Reece Staunton, who managed to beat his man and fire a cross in across goal. Theo Robinson was able to meet the cross, and scored from just one yard in front of goal. Robinson, who is swiftly becoming a fans’ favourite at Bradford, turned to applaud the 99 travelling Bradford fans following his celebration.
The home side failed to respond before half-time, which led to boos from the Sunderland supporters, as their bad spell of form seemed to be continuing.
Although, the boos seemed to have a positive impact, as Sunderland came out at the start of the second half with more purpose and energy.
Just seven minutes into the second half, Sunderland were back level. Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead ran onto a perfectly weighted ball in behind the Bradford defence, and struck a sweet half-volley past Sam Hornby into the far corner of the goal.
Sunderland kept up the pressure, and in the 70th minute they very nearly got a second goal. After Fiacre Kelleher misjudged a ball forward, Leon Dajaku found himself through on goal. However, Sam Hornby made himself big and saved Dajaku’s effort, only for the ball to sit up nicely for Will Harris. Harris tried to head home from close range, only for Reece Staunton to somehow clear from the line, preventing the home side from going ahead.
Both sides kept looking for a winner, with both having more chances before the full-time whistle. Just as four minutes injury time was shown by the fourth official, Alex Pritchard smashed an almost perfectly-hit free kick against the cross bar. Then, in the final attack of the game, Callum Cooke fired a low shot goalward, which Hoffman was able to parry safely away from goal. The referee then blew the full-time whistle, meaning a penalty shootout would take place to see which team would earn a bonus point.
Elliot Watt and Alex Pritchard saw their efforts saved, before the next five penalties were converted. Lynden Gooch stepped up to take Sunderland’s fourth penalty, but saw his effort saved by Hornby down to his right-hand side. Gareth Evans had the opportunity to win the shootout for the Bantams, who had no issues in slotting home his penalty, leading to rather muted celebrations from the City team.
Despite the muted celebrations, the game had provided a good opportunity for a number of City players to prove to Derek Adams that they deserve more game time. Theo Robinson scored his second goal in as many games, proving that he does have something to offer to the team, after Adams was initially doubtful about the influence the striker could have. After a solid display at the back and after registering his first senior assist, Reece Staunton was voted Man of the Match by Bradford fans. Even though the fans were impressed, it still seems that Staunton will be heading out on loan in the near future. The Bradford fans will be hoping for another good performance, and a good result, as they take on Port Vale on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.