Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Bradford City (Pens: 3-4)

  • September 03, 2019 | By Chris Mann
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There was an overwhelming feeling of pride inside the University of Bolton Stadium, as Bolton were narrowly edged out on penalties by Bradford City.

Wanderers, naming their youngest ever side - eclipsing the team that was fielded against Coventry City in August - were backed by more than 9,000 supporters, who burst into cheer when Dennis Politic put them in front with less than eight minutes played.

Paudie O'Connor equalised six minutes after the break by heading home from a corner, and the game would go on to spot-kicks with the score remaining level at 1-1 after 90 minutes.

Both teams registered a point, but it was the Bantams who would be granted an additional one by virtue of a 4-3 success from 12 yards.

The first seven penalties were all successfully converted - James Weir, Harry Brockbank and Ronan Darcy scoring for Wanderers, while Zeli Ismail, Jordan Gibson, Ben Richards-Everton and Connor Wood netted for the visitors.

The Trotters blinked first, however, with Jordon Boon clipping the crossbar, but O'Connor missed the opportunity to seal the win as he was denied by an outstanding save from Matthew Alexander.

Adam Senior stepped up, knowing he would have to score to take proceedings into sudden death, but he was thwarted by Sam Hornby as Gary Bowyer's side claimed the win.

When team news was announced an hour prior to kick-off, it quickly became apparent that it was the youngest team in Wanderers history - with four changes seeing Alexander, Senior, Sonny Graham and Callum King-Harmes take the places of Remi Matthews, Jack Hobbs, Luke Murphy and Jason Lowe. In Lowe's absence, Brockbank was handed the captain's armband.

Bolton had planned to open only the lower tier of the West Stand for the fixture, expecting a crowd somewhere in the region of 1,500, but announed earlier in the day that access to the North Stand would be granted due to a sudden increase in demand.

Such was that demand, though, kick-off had to be delayed 10 minutes to allow supporters into the stadium - with heavy traffic outside also a contributing factor following an incident on the nearby M61 motorway.

As players emerged from the tunnel, so did the club's new management team of Keith Hill and his assistant, David Flitcroft, who greeted their new followers as they continued to flock into the ground - with stewards opening up the East Stand to allow an unexpected crowd in excess of 9,000 to watch events unfold.

It was Bradford who created the first shooting chance of the game, with Harry Pritchard volleying into the side netting after Yoan Zouma had failed to deal with a cross from Jackson Longridge.

Despite that early scare, Bolton - who are without a goal in 10 league fixtures, dating back to April - showed they still know where the net is, as Politic dispossessed Danny Devine before sending a deflected shot beyond the despairing arm of Hornby to make it 1-0.

Hornby raced off his line to deny Eddie Brown shortly afterwards, before Clayton Donaldson fired into the side-netting against his former club after holding off a tackle from Brockbank.

The young Trotters were enjoying themselves on the quarter-hour, with a free-flowing passing move ending with Darcy dragging a shot wide from the edge of the box.

City came close to drawing level from the next attack, though, with Pritchard's corner being headed goalwards by Tyler French, only to be cleared off the line by Boon.

Jermaine Anderson volleyed high and wide midway through the half as the visiting side looked to get back on level terms, moments before Gibson latched on to a pass from Donaldson and clipped the outside of the post.

Politic and O'Connor came close at either end, but there were no further goals before the break as Bolton walked off to a standing ovation - leading 1-0.

With the action back under way, Bradford had the first chance as Gibson was played through by Donaldson before seeing his strike blocked by Graham.

City were level on 51 minutes - with O'Connor heading home from a corner, just moments after Alexander made a tremendous stop to prevent a cross from Omari Patrick from looping over his head.

Bolton set about restoring their lead immediately, with Politic's drive and determination ending with a shot what brought a fine save out of Hornby.

Pritchard had the ball in the net for Bradford from the next attack, but referee Martin Coy spotted a handball in the build-up and subsequently ruled the goal out.

He was denied by Alexander on the hour, shortly before another attempt came back off the post with the goalkeeper this time a beaten man.

Politic, again embarking upon a mazy run, saw a goalbound effort blocked on 74 minutes, while both Ismail and Anderson failed to hit the target at the other end.

Bradford stepped up their attacking threat as the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes, with Ismail bringing a remarkable save out of Alexander, before Gibson found a towering Senior in his way as he seemed destined to break the net.

Wood and Richards-Everton were next to be left frustrated, but it was Bolton who came close to taking all three points as substitute - and debutant - Jay Fitzmartin saw a shot well held by Hornby in the closing stages.

The 1-1 draw meant both sides gained a point in the Group F table, but it was Bradford who would take an additional one as they picked up a 4-3 victory on penalties - with Boon and Senior the unfortunate players to miss for the hosts.

There were unsavoury scenes at the end, with Bradford's Anderson taking exception to Senior's approach to the final spot-kick, with players split apart by calmer heads.

Bolton were due to host Bury this coming Sunday, in a fixture which will no longer go ahead following the Shakers' expulsion from the EFL. Instead, Hill will lead his new team for the first time when they travel to Rotherham United on September 14.

Bolton Wanderers: Alexander, Boon, Zouma, Senior, Brockbank, Darcy, Graham, Weir, King-Harmes (Fitzmartin 76), Politic (White 82), Brown (Brown-Sterling 65)
Subs Not Used: Hutchinson, Edmondson, Osigwe, Whalley
Booked: Politic, Brockbank, Brown, Fitzmartin
Goals: Politic 8

Bradford City: Hornby, French, O'Connor, Richards-Everton, Gibson, Anderson, Devine, Pritchard (Wood 66), Longridge, Devitt, Donaldson (Ismail 63)
Subs Not Used: O'Donnell, O'Connor, Palmer, Patrick, Akpan
Booked: O'Connor, Ismail
Goals: O'Connor 51

Referee: Martin Coy
Attendance: 9,062

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Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Rochdale 34 36
20 AFC Wimbledon 35 35
21 Tranmere Rovers 34 32
22 Southend United 35 19
23 Bolton Wanderers 34 14
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2018/19 Player of the Year?
34.62% Gary O'Neil
19.38% David Wheater
18.92% Pawel Olkowski
9.27% Joe Williams
5.33% Jason Lowe
4.13% Sammy Ameobi
2.85% Josh Magennis
2.75% Mark Beevers
1.19% Jack Hobbs
1.01% Ben Alnwick
0.28% Andrew Taylor
0.28% Craig Noone