By Jordan Rushworth
Bradford City secured a potentially vital 1-0 home win over Fleetwood Town in the first leg of the League 1 play off semi final.
The Bantams came into the play-offs with an unbeaten home record this campaign, while Fleetwood were unbeaten away from since they lost at Port Vale in November.
Stuart McCall’s side dominated possession for the majority of the game, with Fleetwood maintaining a solid defensive shape and looking to use the pace of striker Devante Cole on the counter.
Uwe Rosler’s men were largely forced onto the back foot through Bradford’s intense passing style in a cagey first half, however they looked capable of creating chances on the rare occasions they entered City’s territory.
The Lancashire side had the best opportunity of the first half with top scorer David Ball chipping an effort just over the bar from outside the box, after a poor clearance by Bradford keeper Colin Doyle.
Despite their dominance in possession Bradford struggled to break down Fleetwood’s well organised defence who restricted them to pot shots from outside the penalty area.
City’s best first half moment came from Billy Clarke’s snapshot from the edge of the box which came back of the post.
Clarke and Charlie Wyke both fired decent opportunities over towards the end of the half which eventually finished goalless.
The Bantams started the second half strongly with the lively Mark Marshall slicing wide after good work down the right.
Josh Cullen on loan from West Ham United then saw his dipping freekick tipped over the bar by Cairns in the Fleetwood goal.
Bradford were looking more and more dangerous with captain Roman Vincelot firing a clear cut chance wide after Fleetwood struggled to clear a near post corner.
Fleetwood could have scored against the run of play moments later with Devante Cole’s pace causing the Bradford defence problems, however Doyle did just about enough to put him off.
Just as it looked like Rosler’s side had weathered the strom and were going to earn a valuable draw, substitute Jordy Hiwula won a corner after a jinking run in the Fleetwood penalty area.
Cullen whipped in an excellent delivery that was perfect for the on rushing Rory Mcardle who powered his header past Cairns and into the bottom corner from six yards out.
Valley Parade erupted with City finally claiming the breakthrough their performance had merited.
McCall’s men could have doubled their advantage late on with James Meridith’s goal bound header deflected wide. The game eventually ended 1-0 and means Bradford will take a crucial lead to Highbury for the second leg on Sunday.