Bantams blown away by Latics’ ‘bulldozer’
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 07 April 2014
Bradford 2, Athletic 3
ONE off-the-ball moment in the second half summed up this clash.
A minor disagreement saw Bradford striker Aaron Mclean respond to Adam Lockwood by angrily pushing the defender in the chest. Lockwood, six feet tall and sturdily built apparently from Yorkshire stone, barely moved. His response wasn’t one of aggression, but to chuckle.
Bradford’s star striker was substituted seconds later. If you can’t beat them, fight them. If you can’t even fight them, there isn’t much left for you to do.
Athletic’s game-plan and its execution provoked little but impotent rage from the Bantams, a club tipped for the play-offs earlier in the season but now only two points ahead of Lee Johnson’s resurgent side.
The visitors were simply too good. The widespread pessimism that followed the 2-0 home defeat to Rotherham four weeks ago has been replaced with success born of pragmatism on the pitch.
Manager Johnson has hit on his magic formula at last.
Not only has the move to have Korey Smith sit in front of the back four stabilised Athletic defensively, it has also handed freedom to the likes of James Wesolowski to bound forward – which he did to great effect here.
Roared on by a magnificent 1,322 fans who made the short trek, Wesolowski struck first by latching on to Clarke-Harris’s clever knockdown into space in the box and side-footing home. Adam Reach soon equalised against the run of play.
But as Athletic’s drum beat out the rhythm, Clarke-Harris responded to his name being belted out in song by striking the first of his two goals shortly before the interval.
Clarke-Harris was brutal. This is a 19-year-old, without a league goal since scoring against Coventry in December.
But power was matched by accuracy when slamming into the roof of the net a clever disguised pass from the generally quiet Gary Harkins as half-time approached.
After the break, Jonathan Grounds was the architect of Athletic’s third goal, again on the counter-attack.
The left-back freed Clarke-Harris, the forward latched on to the through-ball and his burgeoning confidence allowed him to carry it towards the edge of the area before unleashing a precise finish.
Athletic sat back and managed the game effectively as the Bantams strained to little effect. Gary Jones’ clean strike on a rare foray was deep enough into added time to barely raise a cheer from the local faithful.
Athletic stood up and were counted, while punch-drunk Bradford were subjected to a standing count.
It was a grand day out for everyone of an Athletic persuasion.
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