FC Halifax Town 1-2 Bradford

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Two goals in four minutes helped Bradford City edge past FC Halifax Town 2-1 in the FA Cup first round in front of more than 8,000 fans at the Shay.

For 50 minutes, a packed Shay crowd dared to dream after Lois Maynard put Halifax into a sensational early lead.

But the half-time introduction of Billy Clarke helped turn the game as he set up Jon Stead and Filipe Morais as Bradford struck twice in four minutes just after the restart.

Town rallied though and came mightily close to taking it to a replay, ensuring a proud day for the club was accompanied by a performance the biggest crowd in the new club’s history could be proud of too.

It was obvious well before kick-off that this would dwarf the crowd from the Charlton game, with the South Stand more heavily populated by 11.30am than it usually is by 3pm on a Saturday.

The sight of 8,000 supporters inside the Shay showed how far the club has come since that 3-0 loss to Bamber Bridge back in August 2008.

Neil Aspin and David Bosomworth both labelled it a David v Goliath contest, but Goliath was far from a full-strength, with Jordan Pickford, Rory McArdle and James Hanson all missing who would normally start.

First on Phil Parkinson’s check list will presumably have been not to concede early, while not giving away set-pieces will have been up there too.

Both boxes remained un-ticked inside three minutes.

Alan Sheehan’s stray back-pass to hand Town their first of three corners in the first two minutes must have had the City boss tearing his hair out.

From Paul Marshall’s third delivery, Maynard lashed in from close range after Richard Peniket’s shot was blocked.

It’s a good job so many fans heeded the advice to turn up early; any latecomers will have wondered what the noise was all about.

The only people more pleased than the Halifax fans to see Maynard’s goal were probably the BT Sport schedulers.

Maynard now has two in his last three home games after going six months without finding the net.

Town’s lightning quick start pumped up the home supporters even more, who cheered every lost cause chased down and every Bradford clearance into the stands, with Scott Boden and Peniket working hard to press the vulnerable-looking City defence.

The packed South Stand took the chance to launch the odd chant at the visitors’ expense, but the Bantams responded by enjoying the majority of possession and produced some nice, neat approach play, forcing Simon Ainge and Matt Pearson into superb clearances inside their own box.

Kevin Roberts then threw himself in-front of Mark Yeates’ goal-bound shot as he and Billy Knott started to get on the ball in advanced areas.

Town again displayed their proficiency from corners as Steve Williams looked to have doubled their lead, but namesake Ben more than made up for his handling error in conceding the set-piece with a fine reaction save.

That was a welcome bit of Town pressure and was followed up by Scott Boden’s strike from 25 yards and a near mix-up between Williams and Sheehan with Boden in close attendance.

By now the Bradford end was calling for Parkinson to bring on a striker, with the visitors producing some decent possession but little threat inside the penalty box.

Stead looked an isolated presence against Town’s back-three, and was restricted to half chances at best.

Boden should have done better after Peniket’s marauding run but curled his shot over before Kevin Roberts shinned his effort badly wide moments later.

If anything, the feeling was Town should have gone in 2-0 up at the interval after that little spell.

While Bradford were booed off by a section of their fans, Town were roared off.

Parkinson had clearly seen enough and sent on Billy Clarke for the second-half, who immediately brought a save from Matt Glennon.

Just as Town were closing in on seven hours without conceding, Clarke played in Stead, who rounded Glennon and slotted in.

Bradford had been better in the first five minutes of the second-half than the whole of the first.

Clarke’s impact seemed to act as a catalyst for the whole City side, and his delightful through ball to Morais was unerringly struck across Glennon by the former Chelsea youngster.

It made you wonder why Clarke wasn’t in from the start.

If going one-down after three minutes was a test of Bradford’s character, this was now a test of Halifax’s.

Neil Aspin wasted no time in bringing on Adam Smith, but City were now finding more space on the ball and the momentum had shifted.

A crunching tackle by Andrew Davies on Peniket then triggered a frantic spell as Marshall saw two thunderbolts blocked in amongst a game of head tennis around the City box that threatened to go to five sets.

Halifax needed to find their second wind from somewhere, with Jamie Jackson also thrown on as the Shaymen committed more men forward.

Clarke could have sealed it with 10 minutes left after racing clear on the break but Glennon rushed off his line to save.

The chances were falling to City rather than Halifax, but the hosts didn’t let up as the clock ticked down, forcing Bradford to sit deep and preserve what was a slender lead right until the end.

Maynard nearly produced a fairytale ending as his shot was deflected wide after a scramble in the box.

Glennon came up for the resulting corner in what was a grandstand finish as Marc Roberts’ header was cleared off the line but Bradford clung on.

Halifax: Glennon, K Roberts, M Roberts, Ainge, Williams (Smith 54), McManus, Maynard, Marshall (Jackson 74), Pearson, Boden, Peniket. Subs not used: Senior, Bolton, Dyer, Wilson, Schofield.

Scorer: Maynard (3)

Shots on target: 4

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 5

Bradford: Williams, Darby, Davies, Sheehan, Meredith, Kennedy, Morais, Yeates (McArdle 86), Halliday (Clarke 46), Knott (Dolan 90), Stead. Subs not used: Routis, McBurnie, Urwin, Webb-Foster.

Scorer: Stead (50), Morais (53)

Shots on target: 5

Shots off target: 8

Corners: 5

Attendance: 8,042

Town man of the match: Matt Glennon