Blackburn Rovers vs Bradford City. Sky Bet League One.
Thursday 29 March 2018 22:34, UK
Bradley Dack and Craig Conway fired Blackburn to the Sky Bet League One summit after a 2-0 win over Bradford in their first league game for 19 days.
After a frustrating first half in which Blackburn's Marcus Antonsson headed a huge chance wide, Tony Mowbray's side put their attacking class on display with two classy finishes to secure a valuable three points in their title charge.
But as their luck looked to be running out, Dack finished off a flowing move he initiated in the centre circle by slotting Corry Evans' defence-splitting ball past Colin Doyle (68), before Conway netted the second 75 seconds after his introduction (80).
The result leaves Simon Grayson with just a solitary victory as Bantams boss, while Rovers top the standings for the evening at least, with a point separating them from second-placed Shrewsbury.
Blackburn: Raya (6), Bennett (6), Lenihan (n/a), Williams (6), Bell (6), Smallwood (6), Evans (7), Dack (8), Armstrong (7), Samuel (6), Antonsson (5)
Subs: Downing (6), Payne (7), Conway (7)
Bradford: Doyle (6), Kilgallon (6), Vincelot (6), Warnock (5), Knight-Percival (6), Law (5), Gilliead (5), Guy (6), McMahon (6), Wyke (5), Poleon (5)
Subs: Patrick (5), McCartan (5), Dieng (5)
Man of the match: Bradley Dack
The game almost began in the worst manner for the Bantams. As Dominic Samuel raced onto a lengthy clearance, he looked certain to run through on goal but Nathaniel Knight-Percival somehow managed to escape with the game's first booking after pulling the striker back.
If they were frustrated with that missed chance, Antonsson's effort less than 10 minutes later only rubbed salt in the wounds when he headed Richie Smallwood's free-kick behind from close range.
But when Dack's corner was delivered minutes before the half-hour mark, hearts truly were in mouths. Bradford failed to clear and the ball bobbled around the 18-yard box - not only did Antonsson's scuffed shot hit the post, but Dack watched his cross deflected onto the bar.
The chances continued to manifest, but without the presence of top scorer Danny Graham, Doyle was largely untroubled and while Bradford intermittently made headway, they lacked a killer final ball.
With 19 days separating this from their last fixture, Tony Mowbray made four changes from the side that beat Blackpool at Ewood Park on 10 March.
Amari'i Bell, Corry Evans, Marcus Antonsson and Dominic Samuel started in place of Ryan Nyambe, Jack Payne, Charlie Mulgrew and Danny Graham, the latter of whom missed out with a back problem.
Simon Grayson, meanwhile, welcomed back Charlie Wyke from suspension and he returned in place of Shay McCartan.
Evans saw a close-range shot charged down by Knight-Percival, but with 22 minutes to play, Dack finally made the all-important breakthrough, when he ran onto Evans' clever through ball to strike the opener, his 16th league goal of the campaign, past Doyle.
And with 10 minutes left on the clock, Conway put the game beyond doubt to conclude another slick Blackburn attack, firing home at the far post less than two minutes after entering the fray, following interplay between Adam Armstrong and Dack.
One of the most consistent performers for Tony Mowbray's side as Blackburn chase the Sky Bet League One title, Dack was not just man of the match this evening, he was arguably the match winner.
Though his tenacity and set-piece deliveries were not rewarded in the first half, it was a different story in the second, despite particular attention paid by Grayson's side to limit his influence after the break. He managed to outwit the opposition however and scored the first in style, before playing a key role in Craig Conway's goal that secure the victory.
Tony Mowbray: "I thought we started really well, I thought, looking at that clock after 25 minutes, it felt like we'd had a dozen shots and it just wasn't going to happen, it wasn't going in.
"When you've been in football a long time you know there are days when you dominate and you feel as if you should be on top and you go out second half and find yourself a goal down. We were really focused to make sure that didn't happen today."
Simon Grayson: "We did okay, but I think for the first 15 minutes they were on top and we had to change the system. They are a good team, but we said at half time that we'd got away with it because we could've been a couple down.
"We had to be brighter, we had to be better without the ball second half but we didn't do any of those things. The urgency was not there that's required to go and win a game."
Both teams are next in action on Easter Monday when Bradford welcome Walsall to Valley Parade and Blackburn travel to struggling MK Dons. Both fixtures get underway at 3pm.