After defeat to Sporting Albion last weekend, via a disappointing performance, Bradford City Women were keen to bounce back when they welcomed Nottingham Forest on Sunday afternoon, and they did exactly this, producing a marvellous display in the process too.
After dominating the first half, City’s Hannah Campbell broke the deadlock on the stroke of the interval, before bagging her brace at the midway point of the second period.
Forest struggled for chances in open play, despite coming close through set pieces at times, and thus City were able to cruise to a comfortable victory, with Sarah Danby adding a third in the final minute of the game.
There were a number of changes to the team this week as manager Steve Winterburn looked to rectify last Sunday’s problems, with the most significant alteration seeing the Bantams set-up with three at the back in a 3-5-2 formation, whilst regular centre-back Charlotte Stuart pushed up into midfield, with Alarna Fuller dropping back into defence as a result.
Stuart was involved a lot early on too as City started brightly, with her having a shot blocked in the area as the hosts produced plenty of promising build up, whilst Danby skimmed the outside of the far post with an effort in the fifth minute, only to be flagged offside anyway.
Forest struggled to really get on the ball, with City’s midfield controlling the game brilliantly, and thus they looked to make the most of set pieces that came their way instead, getting in behind the defence after 10 minutes and prodding wide, though the flag went up for offside this time as well, whilst a free-kick shortly after would be struck well over the bar.
Instead, it remained Bradford on top, Rosie McDonnell’s looping header held by the ‘keeper before the teenager created something for Campbell moments later, crossing for her fellow winger to stab wide on the stretch.
McDonnell, after being one of few lively performers last week, was a constant threat throughout the afternoon for Forest, always getting the better of her marker and getting the ball into the box every time with little hesitation, and this direct play helped fuel City’s attacking fire.
She picked out Campbell again not long after, but this time the eventual-scorer headed over the bar, and Stuart did the same from a corner two minutes later.
All of this hard work was almost for nothing just after the half hour mark, however, with Stuart completely taken out by an opponent in the centre of the park, but the referee seeing nothing wrong with the clear foul, to the disbelief of those of a City persuasion. From this, Forest countered, a long ball over the top finding their striker who fired powerfully at goal, but Chloe Precious was able to palm the shot onto the bar before her captain, Faye Boshell, cleared the loose ball.
Yet, City would take a lead in at the break, Campbell finally on the scoresheet after a superb first half, using her quick feet in the area to find half a yard to arrow home an effort with less than a minute remaining until half time.
It was a deserved lead that the hosts took into the interval too, with them having dominated proceedings but needing that goal to ensure it wasn’t all for nothing. The second half would then be about ensuring this lead was extended and kept, with three points to be the perfect way to respond to last week’s disappointments.
Forest needed to get on the ball more, on the other hand, if they wanted to get back into the game, and they did this early on in the second half, starting brightly and looking a lot deadlier going forward with some sharp exchanges, shooting wide a few times in the opening moments too.
Still, it did not take City long to regain their control, and they kept this for the remainder of the game, with Forest unable to get a foothold in the match or create anything else of note before the full time whistle as Bradford made their lead a comfortable one.
Nine minutes after the restart, the hosts were convinced they’d doubled their lead through Campbell, the goal-scorer played in down the right by Stuart, who was shining in the centre of midfield, but the Forest goalkeeper made a fantastic save to deny the winger, tipping her shot onto the post before pouncing upon the loose ball after it trickled along the goal line.
An own goal nearly gave City a two goal cushion instead on the hour, with Danby’s cross diverted just off target by a Forest defender, but, after plenty of knocking on the door, a second would come, McDonnell hitting the post and Campbell converting the loose ball in the box, finding the top corner emphatically to make it 2-0 with just over 20 minutes to play.
Great work from Danby, who turned her marker brilliantly and fired a cross into the area, almost resulted in Campbell netting her hat-trick with 15 minutes to go, Olivia Thackray’s initial shot blocked before the two-goal winger fired over from the rebound, just minutes after Abi Lee, who had played well in an unfamiliar striking role, holding the ball up as well as moving well off of it, fired over inside the area.
City wrung the substitutions in the latter stages, introducing Katie Nutter, for her debut, and Jess Graham in the final 10 minutes, both of whom found themselves on the end of chances within seconds of entering the fray, but neither were able to apply the finishes needed from either cross they received.
Yet, the Bantams would make it three before the final whistle, and in super style too as Danby, after another hard-working and positive performance, put the cherry on top of the cake with a wonderfully curled effort from the edge of the box after a cute dummy allowed her to deceive her marker in the final minute of the 90 – City saving the best ‘til last with this the pick of the goals.
Campbell still had a chance to bag her hat-trick, Graham finding her with a perfectly weighted reverse pass in stoppage time, but she sliced her shot one-on-one with the ‘keeper in the dying moments instead of making it four.
Overall, it was a very effective and impressive performance from Bradford – the perfect way to bounce back from last weekend’s loss. There were some bold moves made, changing the formation and moving players to unfamiliar positions, but all the risks paid off as the team executed a perfect victory, with very few negatives on show after Forest were limited to just the one real chance in the game, for which Precious was on her toes in between the sticks.
City now sit sixth in the table, with three points from their opening two games, and have made it five wins in a row against Forest, with this perhaps the most convincing of them all, and definitely the most impressive.
Next Sunday, the Bantams make the trip north for a cup tie against Newcastle United, who top the table with maximum points from their opening two matches after victory over Blackburn Rovers this weekend.