In a feisty game at The Proact Stadium, Billy Clarke’s excellent second half strike was all that separated the two teams as Chesterfield lost 1-0 to Bradford City.
After a quiet opening 45 minutes, the game opened up in the second half and both sides created chances. Sam Morsy’s straight red card soon after the restart tipped the game in Bradford’s favour and one moment of magic from Clarke was enough to give the away side the points.
The Spireites started with the same team that won 1-0 away at MK Dons in the FA Cup last weekend and looked to be in a similar vein of form in the opening exchanges. Armand Gnanduillet, fresh from his goal, started brightly - running at the back four and challenging in the air.
Bradford’s Jon Stead came closest for either side in the first five minutes as the on-loan Huddersfield striker glanced a header just over Tommy Lee’s crossbar. The forward then had a penalty appeal turned down as he went down under minimal contact from a trailing Spireite leg in the box.
The home side came alive when Morsy burst through the midfield, rode two tackles then laid the ball off to Gary Roberts on the left-wing. As the Spireites worked the Bradford defence down the left, Jay O’Shea crossed in but Gnanduillet headed over. The Ivorian had another chance moments later, this time a cross from the right, but it was just too high for him to control his header.
The left-wing provided the best attacking avenue for the Spireites in the opening 20 minutes, with Roberts and Sam Clucas combining neatly. Clucas was set free behind the back four by a flick from Roberts, but his cross flew just beyond the head of Eoin Doyle.
The half began to get scrappy towards the half hour mark and the chances dried up as the two teams competed for the upper hand. Roberts’ cross was headed away by the City defence but only as far as Jimmy Ryan who took one touch before shooting low to the goalkeeper’s right. Jordan Pickford in the Bradford goal saw it late but was able to cling onto the shot.
A scuffed shot from Doyle allowed the away side to counter in numbers but after chasing back the length of the field, Clucas’ diving header cleared the danger for Chesterfield.
Moments later Mark Yeates, who had a bright half for the Bantams, cut inside from the left and drove a shot just wide of Lee’s far post.
A relatively chance-free first half ended 0-0 with neither side dominating the game.
The second period started just as fiercely as the first and within five minutes of the restart, Chesterfield captain Morsy was sent off for an off the ball incident with Andy Halliday. The midfielder appearing to catch the Bradford man with an outstretched arm.
Tackles continued to fly in from both sides, with Bradford’s James Meredith booked for an aggressive tackle on O’Shea.
Despite going down to ten men, the Spireites continued to get the ball down and play that attacking style of football the fans have grown accustomed to seeing. Gnanduillet and O’Shea were at the heart of the home side’s attacking moves early in the second half, combining well on the edge of the area but to no avail.
The deadlock was then broken in the 57th minute and it was the team with 11 men that got the goal. Clarke brought down the ball, turned on the edge of the area before curling a powerful left-footed shot beyond a stranded Lee into the top corner. The Spireite players felt the striker handled the ball as he brought it down but the referee waved away the protests.
The Bantams moved up a gear and Stead met a cross from the right deep inside the six-yard box but the striker could only turn the ball onto the post and out. Seconds later Lee stood tall to save a one-on-one chance from Filipe Morais.
After weathering persistent pressure Chesterfield pushed forward trying to get back into the game. The home fans urged their team on as it looked like the next goal would go to the Spireites. That was almost the case as Georg Margreitter rose tallest from a corner only to see his header cleared off the line.
Seconds later O’Shea was put through by Doyle but Pickford was able to spectacularly tip his drilled shot over the bar.
With 15 minutes left to grab an equaliser, Gnanduillet laid an aerial ball off to Roberts but his side-footed shot lacked the venom to beat an in-form Pickford in the Bradford goal. From then on the away side were keen to slow the game down and Chesterfield desperately pushed forward.
In a last throw of the dice, Paul Cook sent Dan Gardner and Romuald Boco on to replace O’Shea and Tendayi Darikwa. With less than ten minutes on the clock the Spireites committed even more men to attack but were unable to find an equaliser.
Chesterfield: Lee (gk) – Darikwa (Boco 83’), Margreitter, Raglan, Clucas – O’Shea (Gardner 83’), Morsy (c), Ryan, Roberts (Ariyibi 87’) – Doyle, Gnanduillet
Subs not used: Wright (gk), Hird, Humphreys, Evatt
Bradford City: Pickford (gk) – Darby (c), Meredith, McCardle, Davies - Liddle, Yeates, Morais, Halliday (Knott 61’) – Stead (Hanson 83’), Clarke (Zoko 90’)
Subs not used: Sheehan, Williams, Kennedy, Routis
Bradford City: Clarke 57’
Attendance: 6,809 with 1,136 away fans