BRADFORD'S knack of piling up goals in a style that makes them one of the most exciting attractions outside the Premiership deserted them as fellow promotion chasers Ipswich demonstrated why they are so difficult to beat.
No team in the Nationwide League have managed as many shut-outs as George Burley's East Anglian outfit, who notched number 19 in the process of dislodging Bradford from second spot. Not that Paul Jewell, the Bradford manager, was prepared to accept this result as a set-back in his club's bid for the Premiership.
"As I have just said in the dressing room, it's not just big 5-0 wins that get you promotion," Jewell said afterwards. "It's the ability to pick up points in matches when you are not at your best, and today we definitely were not at our best."
A fact that Richard Wright, the Ipswich goalkeeper, will be thankful for, having seen his back three outwitted by the ingenuity of a one-two between home skipper Stuart McCall and Robbie Blake in the opening minutes. But having been played into a prime scoring position, McCall was denied by Wright who spread himself perfectly to shrink what had looked an enormous target, pushing McCall's drive away.
Having survived that, Ipswich began to believe they were capable of surviving anything and set about mounting meaningful reprisals. When the wing-back Fabian Wilnis came visiting after half an hour the panic button was pressed. Jim Magilton fed the defensive chaos with a clever ball into the area and only a reaction save from Gary Walsh prevented a goal.
The Ipswich striker David Johnson has failed to reproduce last season's free-scoring ways, and clearly it is a matter of deep frustration. When he failed to get the better of Darren Moore early in the second half, he attempted to re-enact Swan Lake and was consequently booked.
Burley approached the referee Graham Franklin following the final whistle to challenge the decision which forces Johnson into a one-match suspension. "For me it was the wrong decision," Burley said. "That is why I spoke to the referee. But he said he was closer to the incident and that sums it up, every decision seemed to go against us."
Indeed, it was only a marginal, and controversial, offside decision that prevented Ipswich from leading after 60 minutes through Matt Holland. Bradford then resorted to dead-ball optimism and, from such a manoeuvre, leading scorer Lee Mills produced a menacing header from a free-kick, but which Wright held confidently.Reuse content