The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Michael Beard­more

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.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age

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

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