Bradford City Women got back to winning ways in the league in dramatic fashion at the weekend, coming from 2-0 down to beat Derby County 3-2.
Dominant from the off and oozing confidence after a good start to the season, Derby took the lead just short of the half hour mark on Sunday afternoon and were able to double it 18 minutes into the second half, looking to go top of the table.
This was a tough blow for City to take, having come out looking lively after the restart and seeing a penalty saved two minutes before conceding their second of the day, but they responded brilliantly, halving the deficit through Hannah Campbell only three minutes later.
This was followed by a strike from defender Paige Crosby, again three minutes later, which levelled the scores and meant the game was perfectly poised for a great finale with 20 minutes to go.
The conclusion was one for the Bantams to celebrate too, Danielle Whitham ending a great move with a composed finish with just five minutes remaining to win the game for her side and give them a well-needed three points.
High-flying in the league, Derby were confident from the off as they started with real intent. Chloe Precious was busy in the home goal early on, albeit she wasn’t really tested by the Rams’ attack, called upon to make routine stops and sweep behind the defence as they looked to get in behind.
Campbell, in fabulous form with four goals from her last two games as she came into this match, had City’s first chance of the opening 45 minutes, heading Olivia Thackray’s cross wide on 21 minutes.
However, bar Thackray’s shot on target after a swift counter attack as half time approached, this was the only chance the hosts’ had in the first half, with it dominated by the visitors.
Six minutes after Campbell’s opportunity, Derby would take the lead too, with their midfield simply overloading City’s as their striker was slipped in behind the back line and able to slot the ball past the onrushing Precious, making it 1-0 to the Rams.
This didn’t make the away side complacent either, just spurring them on instead as they hit the bar from the edge of the box on the half hour mark.
A cross in from the left by Derby was deflected onto her own post by defender Charlotte Stuart moments later as the pressure continued to be heaped on the home goal, but the score was just 1-0 at the break, with City defending well, even if they were struggling to get into the game at the other end.
Sensing the need for change, the Bantams brought on winger Rosie McDonnell at the break for Shauna Legge, and the teenager almost had an immediate impact when her ball put Thackray in on goal, but the midfielder fired over the bar with two minutes of the second period gone.
This helped spark a great start to the half from City, with Chantelle O’Hara firing wide from distance four minutes later, whilst Campbell followed with an off target attempt inside the box moments later.
On the hour, however, the Bantams had the perfect chance to get back on level terms when Campbell was brought down in the box by Derby’s goalkeeper – the referee having no option but to point to the spot.
O’Hara stepped up to the mark, but she was unable to produce the composure seen so often last season, a campaign in which she boasted a 100 per cent success rate from the spot, seeing her penalty saved by the ‘keeper this time.
At this point, the hosts must have thought that things just weren’t going to go their way, with Derby doubling their lead just two minutes after.
Yet, they never let their heads drop and continued to battle hard for a result they desperately needed, getting the reward for their efforts three minutes after conceding for the second time when Campbell burst through the middle of the park and fired into the back of the net to half the deficit.
If this was the dream response to Derby’s second of the day, then what followed was something else, with Crosby looping the ball over the head of the ‘keeper from a corner and into the back of the net to level the scores, only three minutes after Campbell’s strike.
With the momentum now firmly in their favour, City pushed for a winner, with Alarna Fuller coming close from a corner on the 70 minute mark.
Derby had their own chances, their striker missing the target as we neared the final 10 minutes, whilst they were also to be denied by the woodwork for the third time when heading against the post.
Just as the Rams were starting to get on top though, City began to be even more direct, McDonnell testing the ‘keeperwith seven minutes to go.
That inevitable fifth goal of the game finally came with five minutes remaining, and it went in City’s favour - Whitham the scorer after wonderful play by the hosts.
Sarah Danby started the move, laying the ball off to Abi Lee who did the rest, picking out her right-back who smashed the ball into the back of the net to win the game.
Derby couldn’t muster up anything in the little time that remained, with City able to see the game out with the scoreline narrowly in their favour, denying the Rams top spot.
Bradford have now lifted themselves into seventh place, having played just seven games and thus having games in hand over many of their league rivals. One of these will be played this coming Tuesday away at local rivals GuiseleyVixens, who they beat 5-1 in the reverse fixture last month.
The team will hope that this result can be a springboard for a good run of form now, following two successive cup victories and preceding two winnable fixtures against Guiseley and lower-league Battyeford, who they face on Sunday in the County Cup.
This win was a game in which they certainly showed great character, coming from behind and stealing the win at the death, and their efforts this season have deserved more results like this, so hopefully more are due now as the Bantams look to kickstart their season after a sluggish start.