Bradford beat Fleetwood in first leg of League One play-off

Rory McArdle scores

Rory McArdle’s only other goal this season came in a win at Oldham in January

Bradford City will take a narrow lead into the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final against Fleetwood thanks to Rory McArdle’s header.

The defender powered home a Tony McMahon corner with 13 minutes to go to give the home side a vital goal.

Bradford went closest to scoring in the first half when Billy Clarke’s low half-volley hit the foot of the post.

Uwe Rosler’s Fleetwood side will need to improve in Sunday’s return leg if they are to reach Wembley.

McArdle’s header gave Stuart McCall’s men, who went the whole regular season unbeaten at home, a win they richly deserved in a game they dominated throughout.

Bradford were able to make 10 changes to the team who had drawn 1-1 at Rochdale on Sunday and their added freshness certainly contributed to the win.

Bantams forward Charlie Wyke miscued from 10 yards after a sliced clearance dropped to him, Nicky Law tested visiting keeper Alex Cairns with a long-range effort and Clarke hit the post in a first half where the hosts had 72% possession.

In contrast the visitors struggled to create anything but were nearly gifted the lead when home keeper Colin Doyle mis-kicked to David Ball who chipped the ball over Doyle and the crossbar from 20 yards out.

Home midfielder Josh Cullen drew a fine save from Cairns with a 25-yard free-kick after the interval before home skipper Romain Vincelot hammered a clear chance over from 12 yards.

Just when home fans were starting to voice their growing frustrations McArdle thumped a header past Cairns to give Bradford what could prove to be a vital advantage.

Post-match reaction

Bradford City boss Stuart McCall: “First and foremost I’m pleased with the performance and the intensity but it was at the back of my mind that they still had a chance before we scored.

“To get the goal when we did, I’m delighted but it’s only half-time.

“We wanted to play with a high tempo but it wasn’t just battling and desire, there was a lot of quality in there and that was pleasing.

“We won’t just go there to sit and try to defend. The best form of defence is attack and that’s what we’ll look to do on Sunday.”

Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler: “You could see that they played with tremendous tempo and intensity in the first half but our keeper didn’t have to make a save in the first half.

“There was nothing in the game in the second half so it was disappointing to concede from a set piece.

“It’s set up 60-40 for the second leg, I’m very happy with our performance tonight.”

Live Text

Match ends, Bradford City 1, Fleetwood Town 0.

Second Half ends, Bradford City 1, Fleetwood Town 0.

Nathaniel Knight-Percival (Bradford City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ashley Hunter (Fleetwood Town).

Attempt missed. Nathaniel Knight-Percival (Bradford City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Timothee Dieng with a headed pass following a corner.

Corner, Bradford City. Conceded by Conor McLaughlin.

Substitution, Bradford City. Timothee Dieng replaces Nicky Law.

Attempt missed. James Meredith (Bradford City) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Tony McMahon with a cross.

Attempt missed. Nicky Law (Bradford City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila.

Offside, Fleetwood Town. Alex Cairns tries a through ball, but Ashley Hunter is caught offside.

Foul by Nicky Law (Bradford City).

Bobby Grant (Fleetwood Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Charlie Wyke (Bradford City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila.

Substitution, Fleetwood Town. Wes Burns replaces David Ball.

Attempt saved. Mark Marshall (Bradford City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Nicky Law.

Goal! Bradford City 1, Fleetwood Town 0. Rory McArdle (Bradford City) header from the centre of the box to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Tony McMahon with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Bradford City. Conceded by Nathan Pond.

Foul by Charlie Wyke (Bradford City).

Ben Davies (Fleetwood Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Ashley Hunter (Fleetwood Town) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.

Attempt blocked. Charlie Wyke (Bradford City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila.

Attempt missed. Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila (Bradford City) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by James Meredith with a cross.

Attempt blocked. Josh Cullen (Bradford City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Nicky Law.

Mark Marshall (Bradford City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Amari’i Bell (Fleetwood Town).

Substitution, Bradford City. Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila replaces Billy Clarke.

Attempt missed. Ashley Hunter (Fleetwood Town) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Amari’i Bell with a cross.

Hand ball by David Ball (Fleetwood Town).

Substitution, Fleetwood Town. Ashley Hunter replaces Devante Cole.

Attempt missed. James Meredith (Bradford City) left footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Charlie Wyke.

Attempt blocked. Tony McMahon (Bradford City) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Nicky Law.

Tony McMahon (Bradford City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Devante Cole (Fleetwood Town).

Foul by Nathaniel Knight-Percival (Bradford City).

Devante Cole (Fleetwood Town) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Corner, Fleetwood Town. Conceded by Tony McMahon.

Attempt saved. Romain Vincelot (Bradford City) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Tony McMahon with a cross.

Attempt blocked. Devante Cole (Fleetwood Town) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Amari’i Bell.

Attempt missed. Romain Vincelot (Bradford City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a corner.

Corner, Bradford City. Conceded by Ben Davies.

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