Bradford City 2 Chesterfield 0: Spireites beaten at playoffs side Bradford
Chesterfield succumbed to early and late goals and had to play the latter stages with ten men after Sam Hird was dismissed in a game that saw precious little of Spireites as an attacking force.
After a perfectly observed minute’s silence to remember the 56 supporters killed in the fire here in 1985 preceded a noisy, triumphant atmosphere. But early moments were slow and uninspiring until midfielder Lee Evans let fly from 25 yards, his left-footed half-volley in the seventh minute was hammered home with style.
The next shot in the game came on 20 minutes, again from Evans, but this time he clipped the outside of the post from a similar distance and the ex-Wolves man also provided the third shot, again from range, but Tommy Lee was positioned well to save.
Lee Novak’s knee injury kept him out of the final game of his season long loan spell from Birmingham City whilst Drew Talbot dropped down to the bench, which didn’t feature Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, further fuelling the rumour that he’s on his way out. Charlie Raglan returned after suspension as did Dan Gardner, who scored in his first involvement last weekend after a loan at Bury. With no recognised striker on at the start, Danny Wilson went with Gardner supported by Jay O’Shea as his front two.
Keeper Lee shook off a shoulder injury to make it 138 consecutive league appearances which puts him in fourth place in that particular list whilst he also became only the fifth Spireite ever to have four ever-present seasons during his Chesterfield career.
Play-off bound Bradford featured two former Chesterfield loanees, keeper Ben Williams and left-back James Meredith whilst Spireites’ skipper, Gary Liddle, is a former Valley Parade favourite.
Following Evans’ three shots, Chesterfield defender Tom Anderson took a bang in the face and then fell awkwardly whilst challenging for a cross; he was stretchered off after a long spell of treatment, Talbot came on at right-back with Raglan moving the central defence.
After the break an Evans cross curled in and turned into an on-target effort that Lee palmed away for City’s first corner which saw Rory McArdle head just over. Billy Clarke saw Lee off his line and took a punt from 45 yards but the keeper backpedalled well to save ahead of Tony McMahon hitting a free-kick just over the bar as Bradford stepped things up.
Striker Jordan Slew replaced Jamal Campbell-Ryce on 54 with Spireites still seeking their first shot of the game. Straight after the switch, Billy Clarke angled a shot in that forced Lee to save low down.
O’Shea broke forwards and shaped to shoot from just outside the box but Nathan Clarke was on hand to prevent the ball making the penalty area as Spireites continued to fail to build any meaningful attack.
Evans swung an angled free-kick a tad too high ahead of Hird tangling with Jamie Proctor just outside the box and as last man, he was shown red in the 66th minute to add to Spireites’ troubles.
O’Shea’s free-kick from the right was miscued but hit the side-netting whilst Evans, from a similar position on the left, hit a powerful set-play that was blocked a couple of yards out by a diving header from Talbot.
With time running out Billy Clarke was picked out in the six and he converted from a couple of yards to give the scoreline a more realistic look.
Bradford: Williams, Darby, Burke (N.Clarke HT), McArdle, Meredith, McMahon, Evans, Cullen (Morais 79), Anderson (Reid 67), B.Clarke, Proctor. Subs (not used): Cracknell, Morris, Thorpe, Webb-Foster.
Goals: Evans 7, Billy Clarke 87
Chesterfield: Lee, Raglan, Hird, Anderson (Talbot 40), Donohue, Ariyibi, Liddle, Banks, Campbell-Ryce (Slew 54), O’Shea, Gardner (Dimaio 67). Subs (not used): Chapman, Evatt, Humphreys, Simons.
Ref: David Webb (Lancashire)
Bookings: Raglan, Banks (Chesterfield)
Sent-Off: Hird (Chesterfield 66 mins)
Attendance: 20,807 (736 from Chesterfield)