Stalemate At Valley Parade
Chesterfield and Bradford could only muster up a goalless draw on a chilly November evening in Yorkshire, with neither side unable to repeat their recent heroics in the cup. Paul Cook's side eased into round two of the FA Cup after a 6-1 hammering against Hartlepool United on Saturday, while the Bantams remarkably reached the last eight of the Capital One Cup after beating Premier League Wigan Athletic on penalties last week.
But neither side could replicate those performances at Valley Parade and with chances at a premium all evening, both would have to be content with a share of the spoils as Chesterfield extended their run of clean sheets on the road in League Two to three games.
New manager Cook took charge of his first game away from the Proact Stadium, with the Spireites having won their previous two fixtures on the road in League Two against Aldershot Town and Exeter City respectively. The Liverpudlian made just one enforced change from the side that ran riot against Hartlepool United in the first round of the FA Cup on Saturday, replacing the injured on loan Hull City defender Liam Cooper with returning skipper Sam Hird.
Huddersfield loanees Liam Ridehalgh and Chris Atkinson were ineligible for Saturday's cup tie against the Monkey Hangers, but they returned to the bench at the Coral Windows Stadium in spite of the latter having scored the decisive goal at the Recreation Ground and St James Park.
The Bantams, meanwhile, have been riding on the crest of a wave after booking their place in the Capital One Cup quarter-final against Arsenal following a dramatic penalty shootout win against Premier League Wigan Athletic. Phil Parkinson's side followed that up with a 1-1 draw against Northampton Town in the FA Cup on Saturday, but the Yorkshire side have won just two of their last seven fixtures in League Two.
The Spireites' preparations were somewhat hampered 15 minutes prior to kick-off, as referee Mr. Stuart Atwell ordered the visitors to change their white home shorts to Bradford's black away shorts in order to comply with Football League regulations. As a result, Cook's side strode onto the Valley Parade turf clad in the makeshift ensemble of blue shirts, black shorts and blue stockings as City's claret and amber anthem blared out over the PA system.
And indeed it was the home side that began the better side in the swirling rain, with the pace of both Zavon Hines and Nakhi Wells drawing fouls from Nathan Smith and Hird respectively. Richard O'Donnell was called into action from the latter incident, diverting City skipper Gary Jones' free-kick around the post with the former Rochdale man already reeling away to celebrate.
Attacking their fans in the Carlsberg Stand in the opening half, the Paraders were drawn forward by the constant throb of a drum and even a stray vuvuzela from behind the goal and Parkinson's side, at ease in possession, attempted to demonstrate why they have been so impressive so far this season. When Chesterfield did finally venture forward on the quarter-hour, Scott Boden had the ball in the net but his effort was ruled out for offside after a neat exchange with Mark Randall.
Back came Bradford though and former Sheffield Wednesday keeper O'Donnell was relieved to see Will Atkinson's curling effort drift narrowly wide of his upright as the hosts sought to reassert themselves on the contest. City left-back James Meredith, a former employee of Cook at Sligo Rovers, was extremely fortunate not to go into Mr. Atwell's notebook midway through the first-half following a petulant shove on Tendayi Darikwa after he didn't retrieve the ball from a throw-in.
Both sides exchanged fruitless corners shortly after as the belated fireworks that illuminated the Yorkshire skyline remained more enthralling than onfield matters with the game itself yet to ignite. Danny Whitaker dragged a shot wide shortly before the interval after Boden had found him with a clever reverse ball and his effort moments later was blocked following good work from Randall. With the Gunners entertaining in Schalke, the former Arsenal trainee was doing his best to replicate that here but several of his attempted killer passes had been intercepted as it remained goalless at the break.
The former Accrington boss would have been the more content of the two managers after the opening half, although he would have perhaps encouraged a little more forward thinking from his side and the visitors were thwarted by Matt Duke in the City goal when he slid at the feet of Boden immediately after the restart. On loan Sunderland defender John Egan got up well at the other end, but he could only thump his header the wrong side of O'Donnell's crossbar with what was probably the best chance of the game so far.
With 10 minutes of the second-half having elapsed, the game was finally showing signs of springing to life with Randall unfortunate not to break clear after escaping the attentions of Rory McArdle but he was withdrawn for Atkinson on the hour-mark. The Spireites had played with such verve and panache against the League One basement boys last time out, but they had failed to reach the same level just three days later and Ridehalgh was the next to step off the bench at the expense of the ineffective Whitaker.
The young Terrier's deep free-kick caused problems for Duke shortly after and then Cook got himself in hot water with Mr. Atwell and Parkinson after he prevented Hines from taking a quick throw-in. The game was still threatening to come to the boil, with one goal looking like it would be enough to take home the spoils as Craig Westcarr entered the fray with just over 15 minutes to play.
Substitute Alan Connell rifled over following Wells' bursting run, before Atkinson headed Darikwa's cross at Duke with time running out. His namesake, Will Atkinson, teed himself up to volley over with two minutes to play, and Smith made a vital interception to prevent Wells from pulling the trigger. Nathan Doyle thrashed one miles wide in stoppage time, before Bob Marley's famous hit 'Three Little Birds' greeted the full-time whistle, completely summing up a dour evening's football.
Neither side could conjure up enough to win the game as it drifted harmlessly to a close with neither keeper being forced into a meaningful save. It was, nonetheless, a hard fought point for the Spireites who travel to Bristol Rovers on Saturday hoping to clinch a vital win.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) O'Donnell; Talbot, Forbes, Hird (c), Smith; Clay, Togwell; Whitaker (Ridehalgh 64), Randall (Atkinson 60), Darikwa; Boden (Westcarr 74).
Subs not used - Mason, Lester, Hazel, Evans.
Goals - N/A
Bookings - Smith (6), Atkinson (87)
Bradford City - Duke; Darby, Egan, McArdle, Meredith; Hines (Forsyth 82), Jones (c), Doyle, Atkinson; Wells, Thompson (Connell 68).
Subs not used - McLaughlin, Jones, McHugh, Baker, Brown.
Goals - N/A
Bookings - Jones (83)
Referee - Mr. Stuart Atwell
Attendance - 8,841 (323 away)