Tony Ellis, who almost signed for Telford United in the summer after being released by Rochdale, grabbed victory for Burnley in a game of rare drama and excitement between two of the First Division's early pace-setters. His strike, five minutes from time, capped a remarkable closing period in which the final outcome was always in doubt and saw the visitors leapfrog their hosts to capture pole position in the race to reach the top flight.
Ellis was introduced to replace Ian Moore, who had operated tirelessly as a lone striker, and poached the winner after Alan Moore had found space in a stretched Bradford defence to square a path into the 36-year-old journeyman's path. If that marked a fairytale conclusion to Burnley's afternoon, what preceded it was close to the stuff of fantasy for those who maintain there is much to admire outside the Premiership.
The action was never less than frenetic and, with the likes of Bradford's Benito Carbone and Burnley's Glen Little in sparkling form, there was a fair smattering of skill to applaud. The opening period, despite its lack of goals, augured well for the tone of the match. Little was certain he had broken the deadlock, but his curling shot from the left of the box ricocheted from Gary Walsh's left-hand post up to the underside of the bar before bouncing alone the goal-line to clip the outside of the opposite upright. Carbone provided Robert Molenaar with the best chance of the half, but with the Dutchman unhindered, and from just three yards out, he headed squarely at the Burnley goalkeeper Nikos Michopoulos.
Within a minute of the restart Little atoned for his earlier miss when he intercepted a Gareth Whalley pass before darting through the right-hand channel and striking decisively beyond Walsh. The pace increased from an already impressive tempo and tempers began to fray. With the game simmering towards ugliness, the referee waved advantage as McCall rode the illegal challenge of Paul Weller and found Ashley Ward, who delightfully lobbed Michopoulos from 20 yards.
With Bradford now clearly in the ascendancy, Gunnar Halle struck the bar from long range; Ward, for the second time, had a goal disallowed for offside; Gary Locke hit the post and Carbone was denied a good penalty shout after appearing to be tripped. Having been under the cosh, however, Burnley took the lead after Alan Moore found Little for a simple tap-in. Bradford responded smartly when the substitute Robbie Blake, with his first touch, forced a save from Michopoulos but McCall reacted quickest to level the scores. Ellis, though, had the final word.
Stan Ternent, the Burnley manager, said the game had been a great advertisement for the First Division. For once, the phrase seemed neither a clichéd nor hackneyed assessment.
Goals: Little (46) 0-1; Ward (60) 0-1; Little (79) 1-2; McCall (81) 2-2; Ellis (85) 2-3.
Bradford City (4-3-3): Walsh; Halle (Blake, 80) Molenaar, Myers, Jacobs; Locke, McCall, Whalley; Jess, Ward, Carbone. Substitutes not used: Wetherall, Davison (gk), Tod, Makel.
Burnley (4-5-1): Michopoulos; West, Armstrong, Davis, Briscoe; Little, Weller, Ball, Cook, A Moore; I Moore (Ellis, 77). Substitutes not used: Cennamo (gk), Gnohéré, Payton, Mullin.
Referee: R Pearson (Peterlee).
Bookings: Burnley: A Moore, Ball, Little, Weller, Armstrong.
Man of the match: Little.
Attendance: 17,547.Reuse content