Bradford City kicked off their new FAWPL season at home to Sporting Club Albion on Sunday afternoon, a team dubbed as their “bogey team” after some disappointing results in recent seasons.
Despite the Bantams beating Sporting last time they played, winning 2-1 in the Midlands, this status remained after the game as the match ended in disappointment for the hosts, with them losing 3-2.
A goal on the stroke of half time for Sporting gave them the confidence to race into a 3-0 lead by the 73rd minute, albeit without ever really dominating the game. City fought back with two late goals, but could not find that all-important equaliser as they fell to defeat on the opening day of the new campaign.
It was the visitors who started the game well, with Chantelle O’Hara, who scored the winner last time these two met, blocking a shot in her own area as Sporting piled on the pressure with a few early corners in quick succession.
Still, City grew into the game and started to control it, playing the ball around well and looking to use Hannah Campbell and Rosie McDonnell on the wings. With 13 minutes gone, the Bantams had the first real chance of the game too, Sarah Danby played in on goal, but she almost had too much time to pick her spot as the goalkeeper came out and smothered her effort.
Six minutes later, the hosts came close again as Danby started well, the striker recycling a loose ball from a corner knockinga brilliant cross into the box, but it just evaded the leap of Campbell in the centre of the area.
Sporting did have good spells though, and were creating chances, heading inches wide from a free-kick just past the 20 minute mark before Chloe Precious was forced into her first real save of the game in the home goal two minutes later, getting down to her right well to parry a shot away from Sporting’s right winger.
Yet, it was City who ended the half strongest. Danby again came close to breaking the deadlock, with Alarna Fuller being brought down as she slipped her teammate in behind the defence, the referee playing a good advantage as Danby fizzed her shot just over the bar from the edge of the box.
Great work by McDonnell carved out another good chance minutes later, the winger bursting down the left and shrugging off her marker before cutting the ball back to Abi Lee, who fired just wide of the ‘keeper’s right hand post.
However, despite this terrific spell for the home side, the visitors took the lead on the stroke of half time with a swift and devastating counter attack. They broke down the right and fired a low cross into the box, where the striker converted first time with a clinical finish that put Sporting 1-0 up.
The goal gave the visitors a half time lead and forced City into a half time change, with Carey Huegett replacing Lee as the team took a more attacking approach with two strikers. The substitute’s first involvement was promising too as she fired a free-kick goalwards from the left wing, albeit one the ‘keeper held well five minutes after the restart.
Things would quickly turn sour for the hosts though early in the half as Sporting started to ask questions of the defence and of Precious, whilst McDonnell, who had been a real livewire in the game so far, was withdrawn due to an ankle injury just before the hour, with Aqsa Mushtaq replacing her.
Only minutes after this setback for City, Sporting earned themselves a penalty, Precious bringing down an onrushing attacker as she raced onto a through ball and got a touch before the ‘keeper, who then could not get out of the way after committing. The attacker dusted herself off to take the spot-kick, wrong-footing City’s number one to double Sporting’s lead.
The response from the Bantams was positive again as a determined run from Campbell saw her beat two players, but, just as she was about to pull the trigger, a defender slid in to deny her the chance to strike as we entered the final 20 minutes.
The next moment of note made it 3-0 to the visitors though, as the game quickly started to run away from City. Captain Faye Boshell was on hand to thwart Sporting initially, blocking well at her near post to concede a corner, but from the resulting set piece the defending was not as effective.
Sporting’s midfield were allowed to clip the ball up into the air from the edge of the box where their left winger was able to bring it down and strike with absolutely no pressure, finding the far top corner emphatically with just over 15 minutes to play.
The Bantams had to go for it from here, and that they did, switching to three at the back and playing the ball forward as much as possible as they searched for a way back into the game. Huegett was dragged down in the area with just three minutes of normal time to go, and the substitute confidently converted the resulting penalty to pull one back and make it 3-1, with plenty of added time expected after several stoppages for injuries.
Danby thought she’d narrowed the deficit to just one in the third minute of added time, the striker threaded through on goal to convert clinically, but the assistant referee’s flag went up belatedly to deny City’s number nine, to the frustration of the hosts.
Still, two minutes later, the Bantams would net their second of the day, O’Hara feeding Campbell on the left who drilled the ball into the area where Danby was on hand to tap in a deserved goal from just a few yards out.
Campbell almost provided the equaliser too, delivering another great cross, this time for Huegett, whose header landed on top of the away goal in the seventh added minute. Moments later, the substitute had a chance again, but the Mushtaq’s set-up bobbled in front of her and so she could only scuff a shot at goal in the closing seconds.
This proved to be the last real action of the day as the referee blew his whistle for full time with the score reading 3-2 to Sporting after an enthralling affair. There were a number of positives for City to take away with the, but also a number of things that the team will look to improve on the training ground this week, ahead of another home fixture next Sunday, that one against Nottingham Forest.