Tranmere derailed

Bradford 1 (Duxbury 73) Tranmere 0 Attendance:10,080
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On the basis of history, it could be argued that the natural habitat of both these teams is in the lower divisions yet at least one would consider themselves now to be potential Premiership material.

Tranmere, consistent contenders in recent seasons, finished a disappointing 13th last season yet brought with them an unbeaten record in 10 league matches since John Aldridge became player-manager in April and the top flight again looks a realistic target.

Their colours were lowered here, however, by opponents who look capable of upsetting the more fancied promotion candidates after gaining a foothold in the First Division through the play-offs.

Bradford lacked the quality and fluency of Tranmere's football, particularly in the first half, yet having survived such chances as the visitors could muster took control in the second period and deserved their reward.

The goal, 18 minutes from the end, was well executed, the result of a long, looping cross from the right by the full-back Richard Liburd, which the midfielder Lee Duxbury met with a strong downwards header, directed to the left of the goalkeeper Danny Coyne.

Overall, Bradford are short of players of real pedigree but their manager, Chris Kamara, is making good use of his resources. His acquisition of Gordon Cowans, still nimble of mind if less mobile of body these days, is a shrewd move, and he has discovered a couple of useful Dutchmen in Erik Regtop and Marco Sas, whose willingness to come to Bradford suggests the lure of English football is not exclusive to the Premiership.

Sas, signed on a free transfer from NAC Breda, where he was out of contract, twice went close to scoring, with a glancing first-half header and a hard, low shot from 30 yards just after the break, and certainly looked to have more finesse than the average Bradford defender.

Until Duxbury made his mark goalkeepers were winning the day. Ben Roberts, on loan to Bradford from Middlesbrough, pulled off a splendid save to deny Aldridge, cleverly set up by Alan Mahon - an 18-year-old worth keeping an eye on - but Coyne matched Roberts for agility in dealing with a snap shot by Regtop and saving at full stretch from Sas.

"It hurts to lose any match but the run could not go on forever," Aldridge said. The veteran striker's appetite remains keen, however, even with his 38th birthday looming and so long as he continues his quest to top 350 league goals then Tranmere will continue to play a prominent role.