Bradford City Women travelled to Derby County on Sunday afternoon looking to turn some bumpy recent form into consistency as they played their third match in seven days.
Coming into the game off the back of an emphatic 5-1 win over local rivals Guiseley Vixens on Wednesday night, they were hoping to build upon their third win in four games, but were up against a tough opponent in Derby, who have lost just one game so far this season.
County took the lead after just 13 minutes, a blistering 30 yard free-kick flying into the top corner, but City bounced back within 60 seconds as Katie Nutter headed home.
The Bantams then dominated proceedings, particularly the first half, during which they created countless chances, albeit lacking that all important finishing touch that would have put them into a convincing lead.
Despite seeing most of the ball and the opportunities in the game, City would be punished for not taking advantage of this in the end as Derby stole all three points with a 79th minute winner, one which took them into second in the table with four wins from their opening five games.
The hosts’ opener was the first real action of the game after a very even but uneventful opening few minutes. The goal showed the confidence they are oozing from their recent form too, a 30 yard free-kick rifled into the top corner of Carey Huegett’s net, despite the goalkeeper’s best efforts to save it.
However, City showed great character through a super response, equalising within a minute of conceding. The goal came from a set piece of their own, Chantelle O’Hara delivering a deadly cross into the area that Nutter took full advantage of, brilliantly heading home to level the scores at 1-1 after 14 minutes.
City took the momentum from here too, looking to make up for the early setback by putting themselves into the lead as they created a whole host of chances before the break.
Olivia Thackray’s productive run promised to do this, the midfielder bursting into the area and firing at goal, but she couldn’t get the desired accuracy on her effort as Derby’s ‘keeper comfortably held the shot.
The hosts’ number one would be tested properly less than 10 minutes later, Sarah Danby and Shauna Legge linking up well just short of the half hour mark and the latter having a strike at goal from 25 yards, one which brought the best out of the opposing ‘keeper as she tipped it over the crossbar.
Alarna Fuller was the next to come close for the Bantams, the defender, who scored twice in midweek from dead ball situations, unable to find the target at the back post as her effort from Danby’s corner cleared the bar.
Derby did have a chance just before the break; City, who had spent most of the half on the attack, switching off at the back to allow the hosts’ in behind, but Huegett was alert to the danger and produced an excellent save to thwart it at her near post.
Thackray ensured that Bradford ended the half the strongest, going on another mazy run before seeing her effort deflected just wide, but the scores remained level at the break, despite the visitors’ dominance and creativity.
City needed to make their possession count in the second period and put away the opportunities that they were making so many of, but they struggled to continue this prolific attacking play after the restart as Derby raised their game and began to deal with threats well at the back.
With chances becoming scarce now, set pieces became more important, and O’Hara came close to putting City in the lead with one of these after the hour mark, seeing her well-placed effort from a free-kick pushed over the bar.
With 20 minutes to go, the Bantams looked to their bench to influence the match in their favour, bringing on Aqsa Mushtaq and Hannah Campbell for Rosie McDonnell and Legge respectively, and these two almost linked up to grab City’s second of the day within minutes of entering the fray, but Campbell’s header from Mushtaq’s cross was wide of the mark.
However, the visitors’ would be punished for their inability to be clinical in the first half when Derby took the lead with 11 minutes remaining.
It was a disappointing goal to concede too, coming from City’s own throw-in, as they lost possession sloppily, which allowed County to gather the ball and counter with pace, breaking through on goal before their forward emphatically found the back of the net.
Bradford pushed for another equaliser, with the scorer of the first, Nutter, coming close to providing this, but her late header was again well saved by the Derby ‘keeper.
There was still time for drama at the death, Campbell clipped in the box in stoppage time, but, perhaps due to her staying on her feet, her appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee before the game came to an end shortly afterwards.
The Bantams will be disappointed with the result, feeling they deserved more after a dominant performance, but they were unable to find that conviction in the final third that they boasted so brilliantly on Wednesday evening against Guiseley.
However, they will now be keen to bounce back in a week’s time, a home match against Stoke City next up on the agenda on Sunday afternoon.