Bradford City Women’s good run of form came to a disappointing end on Sunday afternoon, as they lost 2-1 on the road at Preston North End.
Rosie McDonnell opened the scoring in the match, giving the Bantams the lead that their lively start to the game deserved with a lovely solo effort just before the half hour mark.
However, Preston fought back, with stoppage time goals in both halves allowing them to turn the game around and claim all three points.
Things started well for City as Charlotte Stuart threatened early on, having two efforts at goal inside the opening 10 minutes.
Hannah Campbell, who has enjoyed a prolific start to the season following her arrival at the club this summer, also tested the Preston stopper early on, whilst Abi Lee and Sarah Danby brought routine saves out of her too to keep her on her toes.
The hosts ignored the early warning signs though, and so City took the lead after just 27 minutes, McDonnell beating her marker out on the left wing and bursting into the box before producing an emphatic finish to open the scoring, with the help of the underside of the bar.
Preston, however, took over from here, testing goalkeeper Carey Huegett for the first time on the half hour mark before bringing an excellent save out of her just two minutes later.
The pressure continued to come, with the hosts firing a free-kick over the bar as the game neared half time, but, before the break would come, Preston found an equaliser, making it 1-1 with the final kick of the half.
After a corner was initially dealt with by City, the hosts recycled the ball well and were given too much time and space to deliver another cross into the area, which was diverted into the back of the net at the near post.
The half time score, 1-1, was a fair reflection of the first period in truth, with the visitors enjoying the better of the opening 30 minutes, whilst Preston finished strongly.
The game was perfectly poised for an entertaining and competitive second half but, before it could begin, a double change was made by the Bantams in response to their opponents’ dominant end to the first half—with Danielle Whitham and Katie Nutter entering the fray.
Whilst these two found their feet in proceedings, the second half began much slower than the first, with few moments of note in the opening stages.
Preston picked up where they left off before the break though, applying the pressure immediately from the restart to unnerve the Bantams.
Just eight minutes in, Huegett came under pressure in the away goal when her clearance was closed down and almost converted early on, but this was the only real action of the opening 20 minutes, bar a strike from Danby at the other end which cleared the crossbar.
Nonetheless, Preston hit their stride in the final 20 minutes, really beginning to control the game in the middle of the park and create plenty of opportunities as a result.
They had the perfect chance to take the lead with one of these, their left-winger getting on the end of a cross at the back post, however, she was unable to convert from close range, to the relief of the visitors.
A rare second half chance for City followed less than five minutes later, with Danby breaking free and having the chance to strike from 10 yards out, but her effort was well-blocked by a defender, whilst McDonnell fired the rebound over the bar.
Preston continued to knock on the door, and they looked set to take that inevitable lead with 75 minutes on the clock as their striker broke through one-on-one with Huegett, but the 'keeper made a fantastic stop to keep City in the hunt for a result.
The Bantams tried to turn things in their favour with an attacking substitute with 10 minutes to go, withdrawing goal-scorer McDonnell for the fresh legs of Aqsa Mushtaq in a straight swap on the wing, but the dominance from the hosts continued, with Bradford just managing to escape a goalmouth scramble in the closing minutes.
They were defending valiantly to keep hold of the point they had in their sights, and looked to have got the job done, with a draw to be welcomed warmly after an indifferent performance.
However, Preston eventually broke through, rather cruelly for the visitors too, with the winning goal coming late in stoppage time.
A route one ball over the top was the source, with Preston wasting little time as the final whistle neared, and the approach proved effective as their striker managed to latch onto the lofted pass and knock it over the onrushing Huegett, who was unable to come out on top in the one-on-one this time.
It was a tough pill to swallow for City, who had fought hard in the game to make up for what was an otherwise disappointing display, but they will be hoping it can fire them up for the local derby on Wednesday, at home to Guiseley Vixens, with the desire to bounce back and return to winning ways sure to be a burning one.