A goal two minutes from time by Scott Dobie denied spirited Bradford a point they probably deserved at a fog-shrouded Valley Parade last night and enabled West Bromwich Albion to stretch their lead to four points at the head of the Nationwide First Division.
Bradford, still anchored in the bottom three after three games under their new manager, Bryan Robson, had threatened the visitors with a first defeat in eight matches but cracked as Albion stepped up the pressure in the last 10 minutes, with the goalkeeper, Alan Combe, making saves from Dobie and Jason Koumas before Dobie out-jumped his marker to nod home the substitute Artim Sakiri's cross from close range.
The goal enabled Albion's supporters to reprise the celebrations that followed their last visit to Valley Parade in April 2002, when a last-minute goal by Igor Balis put Albion on the brink of promotion to the Premiership. The 1-0 scoreline was their speciality then and after last night's snatched victory, it sounds an ominous warning that history could repeat itself.
Robson, suffering a second defeat after a win over Millwall had launched his Bradford career with such promise, was pitting his managerial wits against the club where his career as a player began but it was Gary Megson's tactical acumen that had the last word, the introduction of the Macedonian international Sakiri tipping the balance in the last 20 minutes.
"We changed the formation and Artim provided some quality crosses," Megson said. "It was only in the last 15 minutes that we posed any problems. Before that we'd not played well."
Bradford might have gone ahead after five minutes when the centre-back Jason Gavin beat everyone to a Gareth Farrelly free-kick and clipped the bar with a header. Farrelly, on a three-month loan from Bolton, was outstanding in midfield and his performance alone raises Robson's hope of survival.
A couple of long-range efforts by the wing-back Paul Robinson represented the product of Albion's first-half endeavours but Bradford had an escape 10 minutes into the second half when the full-back Peter Heckingbottom had to scramble the ball off his line after a strong run by Koumas set up a chance for Dobie. But Albion were equally fortunate when a thunderous shot by Farrelly seemed to be arrowing into the bottom corner only to find Koumas in the right place to block it on the line.
Megson introduced Lee Hughes with half an hour left, the striker making his first appearance since he was bailed on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving last month. But it was Sakiri's arrival that proved decisive.
Bradford (4-4-2): Combe; Francis, Atherton, Gavin, Heckingbottom; Summerbee, Kearney, Farrelly, Branch; Windass, Gray. Substitutes not used: Paston (gk), Bower, Evans, Emanuel, Muirhead.
West Brom (5-3-2): Hoult; Haas, Gaardsoe, Moore (Volmer, 78), Gilchrist (Sakiri, 70), Robinson; Johnson, O'Connor, Koumas; Dobie, Hulse (Hughes, 62). Substitutes not used: Murphy (gk), Clement.
Referee: M Pike (Barrow-in-Furness).Reuse content