Bradford City 0 Doncaster Rovers 1: Moment of Mallik Wilks magic decides battle at Valley Parade
Mallik Wilks smashed Doncaster Rovers to a somewhat undeserved victory over battling Bradford City at Valley Parade.
The on loan Leeds United forward produced a brilliant finish on the break – and against the run of play – as Rovers compounded the misery of their relegation threatened hosts.
That the victory came after a poor performance will matter little to Rovers, for whom the win significantly strengthened their hopes of securing sixth spot in League One.
Grant McCann made one change to his side with Tom Anderson replacing Paul Downing, who dropped to the bench.
There was no place for either Ben Whiteman or Herbie Kane, as they continue their recoveries from injury.
Bradford started the game strongly and with the greater urgency that would prove to be the difference between the two sides for so much of the game.
The hosts played with the sort of desperation their dire situation calls for, but did so smartly rather than erratically.
It brought them an early chance with John Marquis providing a timely block to prevent Lewis O’Brien’s goalbound effort finding the bottom corner.
The chance of the first half came ten minutes in when Eoin Doyle rose to meet a superb Billy Clarke cross and power a header beyond Marko Marosi, only to see it cannon back off the post.
Rovers look to have lasted out the pressure by the 20 minute mark and were enjoying some possession of their own.
But they found Bradford a tough nut to crack with the hosts dropping plenty of men behind the ball.
Ali Crawford drilled narrowly wide from the edge of the box after running onto a loose ball.
And Kieran Sadlier flicked a header past the far post after meeting a fine cross from Wilks.
But Bradford quickly began to look the more dangerous once more, with their chasing down of every ball giving them success and unsettling Rovers.
Doyle flicked a low pass from David Ball over the bar from close range just before the break.
Hope of an improved Rovers side emerging for the second half were quickly quashed as Bradford maintained their impressive pacing.
Marosi held well from a low Adam Chicksen drive early in the half while Ball drilled narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Former Rovers midfielder Jermaine Anderson went close to bundling in from close range but looped the ball up into the grateful grasp of Marosi.
Lewis O’Brien should have done better from a superb position but sent his header well over the bar.
Rovers were struggling for any real fluency and sustained possession as the pattern of the first half continued.
But all that was quickly forgotten when they took the lead against the run of play on 73 minutes.
Matty Blair looped a ball forward, sending Wilks racing forward from just inside the Bradford half. He cut across marker Chicksen and smashed a low effort beyond Richard O’Donnell from 25 yards.
The goal quickly changed the complexion of the game, and the atmosphere within Valley Parade which suddenly became a lot more nervous.
Bradford continued to push when given the opportunity and Butterfield drilled narrowly wide from 25 yards after drifting across the pitch.
Nerves switched to the Rovers supporters as the game moved into seven minutes of added time.
Paudie O’Connor dallied on an effort inside the Rovers box, allowing Butler to block.
And Rovers held on for an important victory.
BRADFORD: O'Donnell; Caddis, O'Connor, Knight-Percival, Chicksen; Anderson (Payne 76), Butterfield, O'Brien; Ball (Akpan 86), Clarke (Scannell 76); Doyle. Subs not used: Wilson, O'Connor, Devine, Wright.
ROVERS: Marosi; Blair, Anderson, Butler, Andrew; Crawford, Rowe; Wilks (Downing 87), Coppinger (Beestin 74), Sadlier (May 57); Marquis. Subs not used: Jones, Lewis, Hasani, Smith.
REFEREE: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire)