Bradford (Park Avenue) saw their nine match unbeaten run ended with a narrow defeat to ten men Oxford City at the Horsfall Stadium.
The Avenue fell behind from a deflected first half effort by Nick Stanley. Soon after, the visitors captain Andy Ballard was sent off for a foul on Michael Duckworth. Despite being reduced to ten men, the away side doubled their lead after half time with a header from Chris Willmott. John Deacey’s side scored a consolation as Tom Corner found the net from close range and the substitute had a late goal disallowed for offside.
On a cold evening, the Avenue demonstrated an early intent to attack. As the ball was passed between several players, Bradford midfielder Richard Marshall struck a powerful effort from 20 yards, but his shot was blocked well by the visitors defence.
A minute later, the men in blue and white hoops nearly gained a goal from an Avenue error. A long ball from the back four bounced towards the hosts goal, and luckily for Bradford, Adam Clayton’s header went wide despite bypassing goalkeeper John Lamb.
However, the home side came close to scoring the opening goal. A drifted free kick from Marshall was controlled by winger Paul Walker, but his curling effort whistled wide.
Shortly after, Oxford City took the lead. A free kick was cleared by Marshall as far as Craig Stanley who struck a fine effort from 25 yards which was deflected into the bottom corner past Lamb.
With the away side in the lead, Mike Ford’s side were reduced to ten men. The Avenue tried to switch the play to the wings, and as Duckworth dribbled with the ball, Andy Ballard brought down the full back near the centre circle. The referee blew his whistle and reached to his pocket to brandish a red card.
Following the dismissal, the home side were unable to trouble Townsend in the City goal. The visitors decided to withdraw playmaker Felipe Barcelos with Liam Malone and defended well against a lacklustre Bradford attack frustrated by a lack of goalscoring opportunities.
HALF TIME: BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE) 0-1 OXFORD CITY
After the break, the Bradford dugout were hoping for a response.
Firstly, the lively Duckworth received a pass from Walker, but the left back saw his curling effort fly over the bar from 20 yards.
The Avenue, urged forward by their home supporters were unable to make the most of a good chance. A quick counter attack allowed Walker to cross from the left wing, and an unmarked Clayton could only head into the hands of Townsend from close range.
Despite a man down, Oxford City doubled their advantage. A deep free kick from Mark Bell was collected at the far post and crossed to the defender Chris Willmott who nodded the ball past Lamb from close range.
The Avenue’s manager John Deacey decided to make changes as Jamie Jackson, Tom Corner and Matty James were introduced to add some firepower to the Bradford front line.
However, it appeared the West Yorkshire side would not find a way to score a vital goal. A loose ball inside the penalty area was well struck by captain Nathan Hotte, but his effort was blocked by Corner in front of the goal.
Eventually, the home side scored to the relief of their fans. After turning his marker, Duckworth delivered a perfect cross for Corner, who fired the ball into the roof of the net from eight yards.
With the momentum behind Bradford, they nearly levelled the scoreline. A deep cross from Walker was cleared to the edge of the box, and after holding off a challenge, Marshall struck a right footed effort towards goal, but Townsend denied the midfielder with a fine save.
As four minutes of additional time were indicated, Bradford saw a goal disallowed. Again, a teasing cross from Duckworth was met by Corner, but his effort was denied by the linesman who raised his flag for offside.
FULL TIME: BRADFORD (PARK AVENUE) 1-2 OXFORD CITY
Bradford (Park Avenue): Lamb, Price (James 64), Duckworth, Savory (Jackson 62), Ryan, Clayton, Holland (Corner 62), Hotte (c), Marshall, Deacey, Walker.
Subs not used: Daly, Hume.
Scorers: Corner (79)
Oxford City: Townsend, Benjamin, Stonehouse, Ballard (c), Learoyd, Willmott, Mulvaney (McNish 77), Bell (Pond 62), Basham, Barcelos (Malone 27), Stanley.
Subs not used: Cook.
Scorers: Stanley (14), Willmott (61)
Sent Off: Ballard