An 89th minute winner from Josh McPake was the difference this afternoon against Bradford City in an entertaining Yorkshire derby in the lunchtime sun at The Envirovent Stadium.
Having taken a first half lead through Jack Muldoon it had looked like Andy Cook’s equaliser had forced the sides to settle for a point before McPake’s curling effort beyond Richard O’Donnell.
There was one change for Town with Simon Weaver opting to make a change in goal, with Joe Cracknell replacing James Belshaw for his first EFL start since the goalless draw at Port Vale at the end of September.
The Bantams, who came into the game four points off the playoff positions, made four changes to the side that was defeated 2-0 at home to Crawley with Cook, Clayton Donaldson, Billy Clarke, and Levi Sutton all coming into the starting line-up.
Having been restored to the side Cracknell was immediately into the action, scrambling the ball clear off the line to deny the Bantams an early lead.
On ten minutes Finn Cousin-Dawson attempted an ambitious bicycle that clipped the top of the Town before he went into the book for cynically bringing down Josh McPake.
The visitors were making most of the early running though and Will Smith had to be alert to the danger to clear a City opportunity off the line.
It was Town who struck first though. George Thomson’s through ball released Muldoon behind the visitors defence and he delivered a clinical finish for his thirteenth goal of the season.
Minutes later Jon Stead found himself in a near identical position to Muldoon but dragged his shot wide of the goal, before then testing Richard O’Donnell in the Bradford goal from the edge of the area.
In the opening minutes of the second half Cracknell ensured Town’s lead remained in tact with a smart save low to his left to deny Levi Sutton’s strike from distance.
Town suffered a blow shortly after when Dan Jones was forced from the field with an apparent ankle injury. He was replaced by Ryan Fallowfield with Warren Burrell switching to left-back.
Thomson had a glorious opportunity to double the lead in 55 minutes when Muldoon this time turned provider but with O’Donnell well beaten his effort cannoned back off the bar.
There was end to end action shortly after when Cracknell again turned away a Bantams effort, with Town immediately breaking forward through Stead. His cross was met by on onrushing McPake but the ball deflected clear by O’Donnell.
With their playoff hopes diminishing the Bantams made a double change on 69 minutes with Elliott Watt and Vernam, who had posed plenty of threat down the left, replaced by Crankshaw and Gareth Evans.
The move paid immediate dividends with Crankshaw involved in the move that set up Cook to fire the visitors level, his strike beyond Cracknell into the far corner.
In response Simon Weaver threw on Mark Beck instead Stead, who had again worked tirelessly.
Substitute Crankshaw had an opportunity to win the game when he made his way into the Town box but his shot failed to force a save from Cracknell.
McPake’ strike though sparked celebrations amongst the Town players and delivered a first win in eight games - one that meant Town were mathematically safe from relegation in their first season of EFL football.
Town: Cracknell, Burrell, Jones (Burrell, 54), Smith, Hall, Thomson, Falkingham, Kerry, McPake, Stead (Beck, 74, Williams, 89), Muldoon.
Subs not used: Cracknell, Francis, Andrews.
Goal: Muldoon (22), McPake (89)
Bradford: O’Donnell, P.O’Connor, A.O’Connor, Donaldson, Vernam (Crankshaw, 69), Clarke (Scales, 90), Watt (Evans, 69), Sutton, Wood, Cousin-Dawson, Cook.
Subs not used: Stevens, Hornby, Foulds, Rowe.
Goal: Cook (70)
Booked: Cousin-Dawson (14), A.O’Connor (48)
Referee: Andy Haines.