GALLERY: Stevenage beat Bradford to stay in the hunt
Mousinho and Charles on target as Boro make it six wins from six games
Stevenage 2 Bradford City 1
Npower League 2
Stevenage made it six wins from six games as they despatched Bradford City to stay within three points of the automatic promotion places.
A first half John Mousinho penalty – his second successful spot kick in three games – and a second half strike by Darius Charles did the damage, but the scoreline could have been more favourable to Boro as they had the chances to make it four or even five.
Boro began the game with Michael Bostwick starting at centre-back in place of the injured Jon Ashton (hamstring) while Scott Laird returned at left-back with Charles partnering Craig Reid up front in what is fast becoming boss Graham Westley’s favourite pairing.
Laird was soon into the action, shooting over from 25 yards with just five minutes on the clock, but it was Bradford who went closest in the early stages when Tom Adeyemi snuck through the Boro back line.
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The problem the on-loan Bradford midfielder had was that, in Chris Day, he came face-to-face with one of the most alert goalkeepers in the league and Day was quickly out of his blocks to get down low enough to deny the Bradford striker the first goal of the game.
The opening 20 minutes was played at a pedestrian pace on a pitch not conducive to quick, flowing football and at times both teams were forced to pump it long to bypass a difficult surface.
That said, it was a lovely caress of the ball which had Boro fans on their feet 22 minutes in when Stacy Long hit the bar from 20 yards after stroking the ball over the head of Bradford goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.
Long had started the game well and he was instrumental in the build up to the opening goal when he was bundled over inside the box by Steve Williams as he offloaded the ball to Reid.
That Reid then set up Charles to prod home past McLaughlin was of little consequence, however, as referee Malone had already blown for a penalty which Mousinho then duly converted.
By this time Bradford had been slowly working their way back into the game albeit without much luck as a back line, marshalled well by skipper Mark Roberts, held the Bantams at bay.
With an appetite for goals after his double last weekend, it was Roberts who almost made it two before the break but the Stevenage captain saw his header cleared off the line before a follow-up was also dealt with in a similar manner and Boro headed into the break just the one goal to the good.
Both Charles and Reid had efforts early in the second half, but neither tested McLaughlin, and within five minutes of coming off the bench Darren Murphy also tried his luck only to see his shot cannon off McLaughlin’s face and bounce to safety.
Since his return from a long layoff Murphy has already picked up the pace of League 2 and not for the first time in recent weeks he looked threatening with the kind of dynamic runs from deep that team-mate David Bridges, watching from the bench on Saturday, did time and again during Boro’s run to the Conference title last year.
Not everything went Boro’s way as Bradford began to see more of the ball and their pressure paid off when Dave Syers, having forced Day into a terrific one-handed save moments earlier, equalised for the Bantams with 20 minutes to go by firing past the Boro stopper and into the far corner.
Murphy’s earlier run had almost led to a goal, but on 75 minutes he missed a great chance to send Reid clear to his left while on another marauding run.
Reid was finding space out wide and just two minutes later he was put through into the 18-yard box by Mousinho.
Producing a neat step over, the former Newport man found a yard in which to look up and pull the ball back to Charles who fired home what would turn out to be the winner.
Bradford brought on Boro old boy Luke Oliver but the tall defender, playing up front, cut a forlorn figure and did little to change the game.
At the other end Boro substitute Chris Beardsley, on for Charles, had more of an impact and after forcing a good save out of McLaughlin with five minutes to go he was involved in a bizarre incident when he was bundled over slapstick style by McLaughlin 25 yards from goal for which the ‘keeper was booked and Beardsley received treatment.
Ultimately, though, it was Bradford who left bruised and battered at the hands of the league’s most in-form team.
Boro (4-4-2): Day 7, Henry 6, Laird 7, Bostwick 7, Roberts 7, Wilson 7, Long 6 (Murphy 60, 7), Mousinho 7, Foster 6, Reid 7 (May 83), Charles 7 (Beardsley 78). Subs not used: Welch, Byrom, Winn, Bridges.
Bradford (4-4-2): McLaughlin 7, O’Brien 6, Syers 6, Hunt 7, Williams 5, Evans 6, Osborne 5 (Oliver 79), Adeyemi 7, Flynn 6, Hanson 5 (Speight 87), Dobie 5 (Chilaka 64, 6)
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