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Town 3-1 Bradford
Town 3-1 Bradford
Saturday, 14th Feb 2004 18:43

Town got back to winning ways with a mainly comfortable 3-1 victory over Bradford. A Shefki Kuqi stunner put the Blues ahead before a not uncharacteristic defensive howler gifted Bradford an equaliser. Ian Westlake scored almost immediately and Darren Bent added a third in the second half.

As expected the off-form Pablo Couñago dropped to the bench with Darren Bent coming in for a start alongside Shefki Kuqi. At the back Drissa Diallo lined up at right-back in a back four with John McGreal coming in next to Richard Naylor at centre-back. Ian Westlake returned to the left side of midfield.

Richard Naylor, without a league goal since October, wasn't far away in the first minute, his header from Tommy Miller's freekick going just over he bar.

Darren Bent tried a spectacular overhead kick in the 11th minute but watched the ball go wide of the post, with Shefki Kuqi still down after being fouled when in a decent position on the edge of the area during an earlier move, referee Joe Ross not impressing the home fans.

Bradford's first serious opportunity came in the 15th minute when Paul Evans, a scorer in the corresponding fixture last season, belted a freekick into the Town wall. The same player also went wide soon after.

On-loan keeper Nico Vaesen did well to save Kuqi's powerful strike on 23, the Finn having received the ball from Darren Bent who held-up Richards's pass in to him inside the penalty area.

Kuqi wasn't far from putting Town ahead from the resultant corner, Drissa Diallo just getting a touch on Jim Magilton's corner and taking it out of the striker's path. The Blues were putting on the pressure, and from a subsequent corner Westlake shot over the bar.

The goal that Town had threatened wasn't too much longer in coming. Two minutes before the half hour the Blues broke quickly, Darren Bent flicking on a high ball to Kuqi who struck a first time screamer from 25 yards, giving Vaesen no chance, the Finnish international celebrating with his usual belly-flop.

Kuqi almost had a second within a minute, his header from Jim Magilton's corner was cleared off the line by a Bradford defender.

Darren Bent, looking sharper than at any stage previously in his injury-hit season, saw a shot from inside the area deflect to Vaesen on 34, the ball having skidded dangerously about the Bantams' penalty area before arriving at his feet.

Tommy Miller shot over the bar in the 39th minute, latching on to a ball which Westlake had diverted into his path.

As so often this season the Blues gave away a goal just before the break, and once more it had an element of farce about it. Richard Naylor and Jermaine Wright collided as they tried to clear a ball at the edge of the area, the ball eventually ending up wide on the Bradford right, Ronnie Wallwork beating Richards and crossing with the Town defence static, Dean Windass nodding home at the far post from inches out.

But before the Portman Road crowd could get on the players' backs, Town were in front again. Darren Bent went past Mark Bower on the right, the two clashing and the defender going to ground. Bent laid the ball back to Ian Westlake at the near post who netted with a first time left-foot shot which Vaesen got to with a despairing hand.

The Bradford players were furious that no foul was given against Bent, and particularly with the linesman on that side of the field. David Wetherall and Dean Windass were booked for taking their protests too far, while keeper Vaesen also received a yellow card for kicking the ball away.

Town had enjoyed most of the best moments during the half and looked a far better proposition than they had against Wigan last week. A surprisingly experienced Bradford side had passed the ball with some style but had rarely threatened Kelvin Davis's goal.

Eight minutes into the second half the Blues had the game wrapped up. Matt Richards played the ball across the field to Jim Magilton. The skipper played it on to Darren Bent on the right flank, the striker taking it on and cutting in before curling the ball left-footed past Vaesen and in off the post.

Ian Westlake wasn't far from his second of the game three minutes later, the midfielder having two efforts blocked from close in.

Bent's pace was proving a constant threat, and just before the hour he cut in from the right and laid the ball off to Kuqi, his shot deflecting off a defender through to Vaesen.

On 63 Kuqi received a rather harsh yellow card after an aerial collision. Soon after Jermaine Wright's well-struck volley from a corner was blocked by a Bradford defender.

Bradford had hardly got near Kelvin Davis's goal during the second period but after a rare corner Bower hit a 30 hard shot wide.

Bantams' midfielder Dean Windass was back shouting at the officials in the 69th minute when Cadamarteri had a goal disallowed. The linesman's flag had gone up as the freekick had come across to David Wetherall who had headed across goal to the former Everton striker.

Windass and his girth became the subject of several songs in the next few minutes. The former Hull and Oxford man was dubbed “sumo” and it was suggested that he might be model Jordan “in disguise”.

Veteran defender Peter Atherton picked up a yellow card for a late tackle in the impressive Westlake in the 76th minute.

Matt Richards made a fine run forward down the left soon after, the youngster cutting in and laying the ball off to Jim Magilton who shot well over.

With ten minutes left Magilton set-up Kuqi for a shot, the Finn's effort saved by Vaesen but not held, the Town skipper slicing the rebound wide.

Two minutes later Gareth Farelly got himself in the book for blasting the ball at a prone Westlake, the youngster having been fouled by Cadamarteri, the Bradford players losing their cool for not the first time during the game.

Kuqi came close to scoring his second goal of the game with five minutes remaining when he charged down Vaesen as the keeper tried to clear a weak pass-back. The ball broke loose on the left of the Bradford area, Kuqi pursuing it but scraping the ball into the sidenetting as the visitors' defence retreated.

By now the Blues ought to have had more than three goals. With a minute of normal time remaining Jim Magilton curled a freekick just wide. Westlake wasn't too far away with a right-foot volley from a Magilton cross from the right.

In injury time Kuqi headed a Richards cross just wide before Wright went over from the edge of the area after a more confident looking Richards had played the ball in from the left.

A much better performance from Town, with the partnership of Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi giving the visitors' defence trouble throughout. Bent was probably the pick of the players having scored one and assisting for the other two.

Ian Westlake had another good game in midfield while Drissa Diallo did well in an unfamiliar left-back position.

Town: Davis, Diallo, Richards, Naylor, McGreal, Magilton, Wright, Miller, Westlake, Kuqi, Bent.

Photo: Action Images

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