Express & Star

Walsall 2 Bradford 3 - Report

Walsall blew a two-goal lead as Bradford City's 3-2 comeback victory at Bescot dealt their League Two play-off hopes a major blow.


The Saddlers stormed into the ascendency with two goals inside the opening 16 minutes through Ryan Stirk and Mo Faal, before Andy Cook halved the deficit in the 19th minute.

Jamie Walker pulled Bradford level five minutes before the break and delivered the decider eight minutes after the restart.

Bradford's brace scorer was sent off midway into the second half as he was shown a second yellow for a foul on Ross Tierney, but Walsall failed to capitalise with Tom Knowles coming closest when his effort struck both the post and crossbar.

Walsall fell two points adrift of the top seven after Crawley Town drew against Sutton United and Doncaster Rovers came from behind to beat Barrow 3-2.

Jackson Smith was restored between the sticks after missing the last three matches due to concussion, while Brandon Comley returned from suspension at the expense of Ross Tierney.

Jamie Walker is shown the red card

Bradford, who named an unchanged squad, came into this match having collected 10 points from a possible 12, but knew that anything less than a win would end their faint hopes of the play-offs.

Meanwhile, Walsall were chasing a second successive win as they sat just one-point adrift of the top seven prior to kick-off.

Walsall needed an early goal to settle the nerves and they took just seven minutes to find the breakthrough when Ryan Stirk scored his first goal since October.

Joe Foulkes stole the ball from Tyreik Wright with a key interception on the edge of the box, before Hutchinson embarked on an inspiring run from deep inside his own half.

Hutchinson played a perfectly weighted ball into Stirk, who kept his cool in front of goal to finish confidently past Bradford goalkeeper Sam Walker.

Walsall were relentless during the opening exchanges with Josh Gordon heading over before drawing a textbook save from Sam Walker moments later.

A chance for Jamille Matt

The second goal arrived in the 16th minute when Smith's long clearance from inside his own box dissected the entire Bradford defence. Mo Faal peeled away from a hesitant Dan Oyegoke and pounced to send a looping header over the onrushing Sam Walker for his third goal in as many games.

Bradford halved the deficit against the run of play three minutes later when former Saddlers forward Andy Cook climbed above David Okagbue to nod across goal and beyond the reach of Smith.

Walsall almost immediately restored their two-goal cushion as Hutchinson drove a powerful low strike against the base of the post. Liam Gordon also had a golden chance to add a third when Stirk's shot was parried into his path but the Guyana international was unable to keep his finish down on the rebound.

Bradford eventually began to settle into the contest and an equaliser arrived five minutes before the break when Cook's knockdown found Jamie Walker unmarked at the back post to nod past Smith.

The visitors almost went into the break ahead after Bobby Pointon broke into the box but Smith got down low to get a vital glove to his low drive.

Bradford applied the early pressure at the start of the second half as Pointon fired wide of Smith's right-hand post from the edge of the box.

The Bantams took the lead eight minutes after the restart as Jamie Walker bagged his brace. Cook's initial header was blocked by Taylor Allen but the Scotsman was first to the loose ball as he stabbed his seventh of the campaign past Smith.

A devastated Liam Gordon at the final whistle

They had a golden opportunity to double their advantage when Smith foiled Calum Kavanagh from close quarters, before Mat Sadler made triple reinforcements in his quest to turn the tide.

Matt was immediately thrust into the action when Hutchinson threaded the ball into the box but Sam Walker quickly emerged off his line to deny him.

Bradford were reduced to 10-men with just over 20 minutes remaining as Jamie Walker received a second yellow card for pulling back substitute Ross Tierney.

Walsall came agonisingly close to finding a leveller in the final minute of normal time when Knowles' low driven ball crashed off the post and the crossbar but somehow failed to cross the line.

In stoppage time, Tierney curled an inviting cross into the box but Douglas James-Taylor could only direct his header straight down Sam Walker's throat,.


Walsall (3-1-4-2): Smith; Okagbue, Daniels, Allen; Comley (Tierney 60); Foulkes (Knowles 60), Hutchinson, Stirk, L Gordon; Faal (Johnson 74), J Gordon (Matt 60)

Unused subs: Evans, Farquharson, James-Taylor.

Bradford (3-4-1-2): Walker; Oyegoke, Platt, Kelly (Oduor 82); Halliday, Smallwood, Walker, Wright (Richards 89); Pointon (Tomkinson 73); Cook, Kavanagh (Gilliead 73).

Unused subs: Doyle, Smith, Chapman.

Referee: Adam Herczeg

Attendance: 6,656 (785)