LALKOVIC ENDS BANTAMS’ RUN
NO MANAGER likes to lose but Bradford boss Phil Parkinson insists the manner in which City’s ten-game unbeaten streak came to an end at Walsall gives him heart for the challenges ahead.
Tom Bradshaw’s early opener for high-flying Walsall – his 12th of the season – was the first goal City had conceded in more than 11 hours.
But the Bantams responded well to being robbed of the chance to set a club record and were unlucky to lose to Milan Lalkovic’s fine finish after Lee Evans had brought Bradford level.
Parkinson said: “We’ve pinned them in for long periods of the second half and had enough chances to have not only drawn but probably won the game. We certainly deserved something.
“I said to the lads at half-time that if we were going to lose, we had to go down fighting, by throwing everything at them, really having a go, and they’ve done that.
“It really is tight up there in this league. We’ve had a big week, won at Scunthorpe, got a draw at home to Coventry and then come here against a team flying high and just came up short.
“It’s been a good benchmark week for us and I feel we’re in good shape. A lot of teams can stake a claim to being a play-off side and we’re one of those who can believe.”
Walsall are one of the teams they are trying to catch and Bradford should have gone ahead on four minutes but an unmarked James Hanson headed straight at goalkeeper Neil Etheridge from ten yards.
They were made to pay for that miss on 11 minutes, top-scorer Bradshaw coolly tucking home after Lalkovic’s low 25-yard strike took a kind deflection into his path.
Etheridge made fine saves either side of the break to keep out Evans’ low drive and a Hanson header.
But Bradford deservedly levelled on 64 minutes, Evans lashing Billy Clarke’s knockdown into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Walsall, however, were back in front nine minutes later as Lalkovic kept his cool to tuck Romaine Sawyers’ sublime through ball under goalkeeper Ben Williams.
A Bradford bombardment followed but Tony McMahon volleyed over from the corner of the six-yard box and Devante Cole’s penalty shouts for a handball against Paul Downing fell on deaf ears.
Walsall kept hot on the heels of the top two with the win and boss Dean Smith was delighted to see his free-flowing side show some grit too.
He said: “I thought we were outstanding in the first half there was only one team in the game but Bradford showed what a good team they are with their reaction after half-time.
“They got in our faces more and increased their intensity. So as good as our play was in the first half, we had to be efficient at the other side of the game in the second half. “We deserve to be up there because our performances have been so good so far this season.”
HEADS UP: Walsall’s James O’Connor heads the ball and Milan Lalkovic slots past Ben Williams, inset
BOOM: Walsall’s Tom Bradshaw pounces to score and give Walsall the lead