Bradford may be the toast of League Two, thanks to their Capital One Cup exploits, but they proved no match for Martin Allen’s resilient Gillingham at Valley Parade who equal their best ever League away performance with 10 wins for the season.
The Gills boss made three changes to his midfield following Monday night’s defeat to Wycombe. Loan signing Anton Robinson made his full debut in centre midfield, while Chris Whelpdale
and Charlie Allen
started in place of Weston and Lee on the flanks.
The home side signalled their intent direct from the kick off, Zavon Hines forcing a corner inside the first 50 seconds but fortunately Kyel Reid’s resulting delivery sailed across the face of goal and out of play at the far post.
The Gills weren’t about to be overawed though and responded in the seventh minute as Whelpdale’s quickly taken throw allowed Joe Martin
to cut in from the left touchline, his low drilled shot, through a forest of legs, had Duke scrambling to gather at his feet.
Bradford enjoyed the balance of possession in the opening exchanges but failed to fashion another chance until the 17th minute, Reid centering from the left for Nahki Wells but his half volley was well wide of Nelson’s goal.
Bradford spurned their best chance of the half on 25 minutes, Reid once again the creator with a curling cross from the left flank that James Hanson headed over the cross bar from six yards out.
Four minutes later the home side were awarded a free-kick on the right touchline after Martin’s foul on Hines, Gary Jones found Wells at the near post but his glancing header was easily claimed by Stuart Nelson
The Gills keeper showed great composure to keep the scores level 10 minutes from the break. Leon Legge
did well to block Jones shot before the ball was helped back to the Bantams captain, Nelson took the sting out of his 25 yard pile-driver then recovered to deny Wells follow up from point blank range.
The home side continued to search for a goal but time and again their attacks ran aground as the Gills defended resolutely to send the teams in all square at the interval.
Four minutes after the break Deon Burton was unlucky not to break the deadlock with a powerful free-kick struck from nearly 30 yards out. It had the beating of Duke in the City goal but sadly slipped the wrong side of the keeper’s left hand upright.
The Gills were bossing the opening stages of the second half and went close again in the 52nd minute, as Whelpdale’s quick throw came back to the midfielder, only for Duke to get down and save his low curling effort at the far post.
Martin Allen looked to press home his side’s advantage with the introduction of pacey winger Myles Weston
for Charlie Allen
on 55 minutes. His arrival certainly unsettled the home defence but it was Robinson that tested the keeper next with a decent snap shot from 25 yards that wasn’t far off target.
The Gills took a deserved lead in the 64th minute thanks to great vision from Deon Burton. He lifted a neat ball over the top of the Bantams defence for strike partner Cody McDonald
to run onto, McDonald took a touch to beat the keeper then slotted home his third goal from four games into the empty net.
Cody almost turned provider six minutes later, showing great tenacity to dispossess Curtis Good in the Bradford box. He laid off to Chris Whelpdale
, whose initial shot was blocked before his follow-up effort shaved the far post with the goalkeeper stranded.
A double substitution late-on helped revitalise the home side and the Gills survived a scare on 77 minutes. Bantams danger man Kyel Reid the creator once again with a pin point centre for James Hanson who headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Martin Allen quickly took steps to neutralise the home side’s threat in midfield, introducing Charlie Lee
to add presence in the centre, with the goalscorer McDonald making way. The Gills could have extended their lead soon after as Lee squared for Weston but his finish was deflected behind for a corner.
With the home side committing men forward in numbers the Gills looked to exploit the space and could have found the net once more as Burton curled just over from the edge of the box.
In time added on Nahki Wells went close with a free-kick from the edge of the "D" but ultimately Cody McDonald
's 64th minute finish proved sufficient to secure the points.
Attendance: 10,887 (327 Gillingham)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson
, Matt Fish
, Leon Legge
, Adam Barrett
, Joe Martin
, Andy Frampton, Anton Robinson, Chris Whelpdale
, Charlie Allen
55), Deon Burton, Cody McDonald
Bradford City: Matt Duke, Stephen Darby, Kyel Reid, James Hanson, Gary Jones, Zavon Hines (Ryan Dickson 73), Nahki Wells, Michael Nelson, Nathan Doyle, Tom Naylor (Alan Connell 81), Curtis Good (Garry Thompson 73)
Subs not used: Jon McLaughlin, Andrew Davies, Andy Gray, Will Atkinson
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Assistants: Mark Astley & Jonathan Hunt
4th Official: Gordon Johnson