v Bradford Town (Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup – 11 Apr 2022)




Bradford Town’s 11th place finish in the Western League in 2020-21 earned them a sideways move into the Hellenic League’s Premier Division for the following season, where they acquitted themselves very well by reaching 5th position before their final league match of the season at Westbury four days after this cup-tie in Gloucester.

The two league fixtures between these clubs from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire didn’t give much of a clue as to what might happen in this cup-tie. Each had won their home fixture, Rovers earning their first home points of the season against Town in October thanks to Joe Shutt’s goal before Bradford took ample revenge by thrashing Tuffley 7-1 at Trowbridge Road in the middle of January.

On this occasion, Bradford eased through to the semi-final of the Challenge Cup by scoring twice in the first half, a lead which they protected fairly comfortably, then added to in the second. With Rovers having lost 13 of their 19 home league fixtures while Town had lost only 4 of 18 away, the result wasn’t a major surprise. The home players worked as hard as they could but could have no complaints about their exit from this competition.

Rovers, attacking the dressing-rooms end in the first period, won an early corner on the right but Shutt’s flag-kick was headed over by Scott Nicholls. Down at the other end a similar fate befell Harvey Baker who nodded Will Taylor’s corner over Brad Poole’s crossbar.

Rovers were struggling to put moves together that threatened danger to the visitors’ goal but when Aaron Basford found some space on the left his shot was high, wide and not very handsome.

With the half-hour mark approaching there seemed no immediate danger when Jake Brown received the ball on the left, but he moved across the edge of the penalty-area, then despatched an accurate right-footed shot which crept inside Poole’s right-hand post.

Town nearly added to their lead at once but Charlie Walton’s shot went wide after Baker had set him up.

With the interval approaching Jacob Geddes and goalscorer Brown clashed near the right-hand corner flag. It wasn’t the first confrontation between these two players and Geddes was shown a yellow card for this latest tussle. It was a double whammy for Rovers because Taylor’s driven fee-kick was headed firmly into the net by Ed Plackett.

Just before referee Nat Wormleighton blew his whistle to end the first half it could have got worse for the hosts because Poole’s attempted clearance crashed into the onrushing Box but Town were unable to capitalise on the loose ball and make anything of it.

Rovers made a bright start to the second half. When Ashley Bird was fouled on the right, Warren Mann’s free-kick went into a dangerous area but Town ‘keeper Jonny Hill reacted quickly to catch the ball above his head. Then Tuffley won three corners in fairly quick succession, the first on the right followed by two on the left. Shutt played the first corner to the back of the penalty-area where Jordan Barry met the ball with a fierce shot which Hill was glad to push over his crossbar.

As Bradford regrouped after this little attacking flurry from Rovers, Box made a strong run down the right but could only put his shot into the side-netting.

Warren Mann was cautioned for a quite unnecessary barge on Aaron Witchell and Bradford made their first change with Ethan Witchell coming on for Brown. Bradford then increased their lead two minutes later. A long diagonal pass by Rich Dawley sent Box racing away down the left wing and he cut inside, brushing a defender aside as he did so, before planting a firm drive out of Poole’s reach and into the far bottom corner.

Bradford made two more changes as they looked to see the game out, Ross Lye coming on for Jamie Lyons with Ruben Nuevo-Draper replacing Walton. Rovers’ response was to bring on Tomas Williment for Basford and Matt Butler for Kent.

With time running out Bird was fouled on the right but Rovers couldn’t make anything of the resulting free-kick. Bradford’s win might have been even more emphatic had Poole not reacted quickly to race off his line and grab the ball off Box’s feet.

So, Bradford progress to play at Hereford Pegasus in the semi-final, which will be a stern test for them because Pegasus have only lost once in their 16 home league matches, during which they had scored an amazing sixty goals. By contrast, a lack of goals has been a major problem for Tuffley this season and although no points were at stake this time it was another fixture where they failed to create much for their forward players to profit from.