City find form for Christmas

Manchester City 3 Bradford City 1
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Manchester City are finally gathering momentum as the traditionally hectic Christmas programme approaches.

Their manager Kevin Keegan saw his side chalk up their eighth win in 11 league games and regain second place in the First Division. City showed their fighting spirit as well as no little skill in front of another 30,000-plus crowd at Maine Road yesterday after going a goal behind.

The Bradford striker Ashley Ward claimed the opener aided by a significant deflection off the unfortunate Richard Dunne. City hit back with Lucien Mettomo equalising on 35 minutes before Kevin Horlock and Shaun Wright-Phillips weighed in with individual efforts to secure the points.

Keegan believes his side are showing the character needed to gain promotion. They could be top of the First Division going into the new year, but Keegan is understandably playing down that realistic prospect. "I would sooner be top by April 21," he said. "That's the aim, to be in the first two places. With the character we've shown the past week without ever playing fantastic football we've managed to get two good results against two sides who will have a say in the championship and the top two places."

Bradford had the ball in the net after five minutes but Andy Myers' effort was ruled out by referee Phil Richards. Eoin Jess appeared to impede keeper Carlo Nash after Lee Makel had delivered the corner from the left.

Their pressure eventually told when Ward had a touch of good fortune. His header from Lee Sharpe's free-kick took a deflection off Dunne and wrong-footed Nash.

City were beginning to find their rhythm and drew level with Mettomo's first goal for the club since his £1.5m move from St-Etienne. The 24-year-old Cameroon defender got on the end of Benarbia's free-kick to power a header beyond the stranded Aiden Davison.

City went ahead in the 57th minute with a spectacular strike from Horlock from the edge of the area, who latched on to Ali Benarbia's corner to drill a shot through a crowd of players into the corner. They extended their lead in the 63rd minute when Wright-Phillips volleyed home superbly after Gerard Wiekens had laid the ball back to him.

Keegan paid tribute to Benarbia, whose skill from dead ball situations is proving crucial. "Ali tells us what he is going to do from free-kicks," he said. "As everyone crowds round the keeper he picks out someone on the edge of the box. It was a great strike by Horlock. Everyone knows he's got a great left foot, it was a tremendous goal. Lucien's goal was vital and that also came from Benarbia."

Goals: Dunne (og) (15) 0-1; Mettomo (35) 1-1; Horlock (58) 2-1; Wright-Phillips (64) 3-1.

Manchester City: Nash, Dunne, Mettomo, Wiekens, Edghill, Horlock, Benarbia, Etuhu (Haaland 78), Wright-Phillips (Ritchie, 85), Goater (Wanchope, 67), Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Weaver, Whelan.

Bradford City: Davison, Emanuel, Caldwell, Myers, Halle, Etherington, Makel (Juanjo, 83), Sharpe, Jess, Blake, Ward (Tod, 47). Substitutes not used: Walsh, Molenaar, Jorgensen.

Referee: P Richards (Preston).

Man of the match: Benarbia

Attendance: 30,749.