Bradford City progressed to the second round of the FAWPL Cup on Sunday with a comfortable 4-0 win over Leicester City Women.
Despite being a league below the Bantams, Leicester came to Bradford in high spirits and confident of victory, with them yet to taste defeat this season, or a draw even, winning all 10 of their games.
The visitors matched their higher ranked opponents in a tight and goalless first half too, but Bradford went through the gears after the break and finally broke the deadlock on the hour through Hannah Campbell.
This proved to be the catalyst they were searching for, with Abbie McIver doubling the lead just over 10 minutes later. A late penalty from Chantelle O’Hara and a stoppage time strike from Paige Crosby wrapped things up, with Bradford more than comfortable victors after a testing first half.
The opening stages were quite tight as a result of the mixed fortunes of the two sides, Bradford inconsistent recently and their opponents in flying form, with both battling well to try and get the advantage in the game, but neither able to do so – Abi Lee hitting the target early on whilst Leicester had a penalty shout turned down.
It was the hosts who really dominated the first half though, with Lee constantly ensuring the ‘keeper was on her toes with a couple of long distance efforts forcing her into some fairly routine saves.
Sarah Danby and Olivia Thackray also tried their luck in a well fought opening half, but neither produced anything that really worked Leicester’s number one.
With Bradford enjoying the majority of the ball, Leicester had to look to play on the break, and they posed problems with this approach, albeit thwarted when they got into the final third by good defending or goalkeeper Chloe Precious – the latter forced into a good save one-on-one with 32 minutes on the clock.
McIver worked the opposing stopper for the first real time moments later, another of a flurry of decent efforts as the half drew to a close, with Leicester again denied by Precious before Lee’s header from Danby’s cross was saved in stoppage time.
The hosts were left frustrated at the interval, having played some good stuff but lacking that cutting edge that would put them ahead. They came into the second half with more urgency, as a result, starting the period with several chances.
Within 60 seconds of the restart, Danby was played in by Thackray, but she was unable to beat the ‘keeper, who pulled off a good stop. Lee had an even better chance three minutes later, rounding Leicester’s number one, but she couldn’t find the target as the angle quickly turned against her after some great initial work.
Danielle Whitham tested the ‘keeper once again just before the hour, this time from distance, with a goal looking sure to come for the Bantams soon, the team having upped their tempo in the second half.
Their efforts finally got the reward they deserved with 61 minutes played as Campbell broke the deadlock. O’Hara’s hard work in the middle of the park started the move, with her regaining possession and finding McIver, who in turn played Campbell through to find the back of the net.
A goal to the good, the hosts were much more relaxed now, not needing to force anything and able to be a lot calmer in possession. They never let the intensity drop, however, and were two goals up 11 minutes later, McIver turning scorer this time, with Lee threading her through to finish.
This bit of breathing space allowed the manager, Steve Winterburn, to make some changes too, with a triple sub coming with 14 minutes to go – Katie Nutter, Rosie McDonnell and Shauna Legge replacing McIver, Lee and Campbell.
If the Bantams had any doubts as we entered the final moments of the match though, then O’Hara squashed them, dispatching a penalty in the 87th minute to extend the lead to an even more comfortable one.
Thackray missed the target late in stoppage time, whilst Whitham also had an effort stray wide, but Bradford would make it four, with Crosby rounding off the scoring and a very good performance from the home side.
Danby created this one, with the team not slowing even as full time neared as Crosby got forward from defence and latched onto her teammate’s through ball, finishing emphatically - like a natural striker.
A fantastic result for the Bantams means they have now won back-to-back games for the second time this season – and they will hope this can be a springboard for some good league form, with Derby County next up on Sunday as they look to put a poor start behind them.
As for the cup, Bradford are now into the last 16 too, an improvement already on last year’s finish, which saw them disappointingly knocked out at this stage, losing 1-0 to Sporting Club Albion.