Bradford City Women continued their fantastic run of form at the weekend with a 3-1 win away at Stoke City, avenging the 4-1 defeat suffered at home to the Potters last month.
The Bantams had to do things the hard way though as, despite dominating the first half, they trailed after half an hour, with Stoke catching them on the break just moments after Shauna Legge had hit the woodwork.
However, Bradford weren’t going to let this get them down as they remained on top after the break and looked the most likely to change the scoreline next.
After creating several half chances, they would finally carve out the clear cut one they craved with just over 10 minutes remaining, with it falling to top-scorer Hannah Campbell who clinically, and characteristically, converted to equalise.
With the momentum now firmly in their favour, Bradford took the lead with only eight minutes to play, Rosie McDonnell coming off the bench to make a real mark on the game as she netted her side’s second of the day.
Sarah Danby then put the icing on the cake in stoppage time, her brilliantly curled effort finding the far corner to make it 3-1 and seal a brilliant comeback win for Bradford.
On a run of five consecutive victories, the Bantams weren’t shy away from home on Sunday, getting off to a good start as Rachel Lee, re-signed from Durham following the end of the FA WSL 2 season, fired over the bar from the edge of the box after 10 minutes.
Bradford were on top throughout the first half too, despite the hosts being the favourites due to their better season so far and dominant result in the reverse fixture back in September.
Charlotte Stuart had a chance two minutes after Lee’s effort, but her header from a corner was right at the Stoke goalkeeper, with Olivia Thackray and Lee following this up with long range strikes in the next 10 minutes – both wide of the mark though as the Bantams probed away at the Potters’ defence.
Just short of the half hour mark, the visitors looked to have found the opening they were searching for when the in-form Campbell was played in on goal, but the ‘keeper was quick off her line and came out on top in the one-on-one with a terrific save.
Seconds later, Bradford came even closer, with Legge seeing her header cannon back off the bar after Danby perfectly picked her out with a great cross. However, these missed chances proved costly mere moments after as Stoke took the lead on the 30 minute mark.
It was harsh on the on-top Bantams, especially given that they were thwarted by the woodwork less than a minute prior, but Stoke’s number nine took the chance brilliantly, showing great composure to round Bradford’s Chloe Precious in the away goal before coolly slotting home to give her team the lead.
Frustrated to have conceded whilst on top, the visitors struggled to really rediscover their high intensity levels again in the remaining 15 minutes of the first period, with the score reading 1-0 to the Potters at the break and not telling the story of the opening 45 minutes at all.
However, the Bantams were able to regroup at the interval and came out with plenty of tempo after it, even if it was Stoke with the first chance of the half as they countered quickly but fired over the bar as they looked to extend their lead.
Danby came close to equalising with 50 minutes on the clock, firing at goal from the left of the box, but seeing her effort stray wide. Seven minutes later, she tried the same again, coming much closer this time but still unable to find the back of the net.
Lee tried her luck again on her return just past the hour and was able to test the Stoke ‘keeper with the effort, but the stopper was brilliantly equal to it, turning the shot around the post with a super save that kept her side ahead.
The hosts’ number one was undoubtedly their star performer on the day, and she fantastically thwarted Campbell less than five minutes later, the forward finding half a yard to strike in the box but finding the ‘keeper in her way.
With the Bantams searching for an equaliser, it was them dominating whilst Stoke looked for opportunities to add to their lead on the counter. The home side nearly did exactly this too with 68 minutes played, breaking with great speed but finding Bradford’s own stopper in the way - Precious pulling off a splendid near post save having been a spectator for most of the game.
Stoke’s number one would make another marvellous save shortly after, with Bradford really pushing for a goal now as we entered the final 15 minutes. A cross in from the right was the source of the chance for the visitors, with Danby flicking it on but again bringing the best out of the opposing ‘keeper.
However, with 12 minutes to go, the net in the home goal would finally bulge as the Bantams grabbed a well-deserved equaliser through Campbell. The former-Leeds forward was played in on goal and, having missed a similar chance in the first half, was not going to fluff her lines this time, finishing with composure as she slotted the ball past Stoke’s ‘keeper.
Bradford weren’t done there though, keen to use the momentum they now had to their advantage by going on to claim all three points and turn the game on its head completely.
Four minutes after finding the back of the net for the first time on the day, they were ahead, with substitute McDonnell the scorer this time. It was another fantastic through ball from the hard-working midfield that supplied the teenager with the chance, with her using her pace to latch onto the pass before applying the finish necessary to beat a ‘keeper who had put on such a sublime performance, even if it didn’t come with a clean sheet.
With eight minutes remaining, it was now about game management as the visitors looked to see the result out and protect the three points they were so close to claiming.
The introduction of Abbie McIver in the closing moments suggested that they weren’t done scoring though and the substitute would in fact play a key role in the game’s final goal, her high pressure provoking an error in the Stoke defence that allowed Thackray to get on the ball and find Danby, who brilliantly bent her shot into the bottom corner to round things off in stoppage time and ensure victory.
This victory makes it six in a row for the Bantams, who are quickly making up for a poor start to the season with some fantastic form. It was also one of three for the club on Sunday, with the reserves overcoming the Potters’ second team in the cup by a 2-1 scoreline, whilst the A Team were 5-1 winners too.
The first team now climb to sixth in the table with this win, sitting just a point behind Stoke, who were at the top of the standings only a few weeks ago. They also have a game in hand over second-placed Nottingham Forest, and two over leaders Derby County.
Next up though are Newcastle United, who are something of a mystery to the majority of those in the league at the moment due to them having played only six games so far, winning three and losing three. They currently sit in ninth, but the Bantams will be confident, and knowledgeable of their opponents, heading into the fixture having defeated the Magpies 2-1 in the cup earlier this season.