Bradford City 4 Shrewsbury Town 3 - Report and pictures
Fejiri Okenabirhie’s hat-trick, capped off in the 93rd minute to haul Shrewsbury level, was not enough as Bradford netted an unbelievable 96th-minute David Ball winner, writes Lewis Cox at Valley Parade.
Sam Ricketts’ men paid for static and concerning defending all evening and even a two-goal second-half fightback inspired by Okenabirhie was not enough after Salop looked like they were out of jail against their drop zone rivals.
Salop showed flashes of good attacking play to force their three goals but were sliced open time after time. Their hosts could have had a load more.
Top goalscorer Okenabirhie also drew Town level in the first period with a smart finish but Jack Payne, Lewis O’Brien and Eoin Doyle goals for David Hopkin’s hosts were avoidable.
Ball, who missed a penalty in the play-off final for Rotherham last May, had the final say.
Salop, still with just one league win on the road this term, were inside the bottom four for a period after the break but remain adrift due to the tight cluster of teams after remarkably leaving empty handed..
It was back to earth with a bang after the Wolves FA Cup joy for Town who find themselves right in the mix.
Ricketts decided to keep faith with the eleven players that left everything on the Montgomery Waters Meadow surface against Wolves on Saturday.
Sections of supporters raised concerns over the fitness after such an occasion but Ricketts had enough confidence in the same side.
There were changes among the substitutes, where 17-year-old midfielder was handed his first inclusion in a league matchday 18.
New loan striker Sam Smith, cup-tied against Wolves, made the bench alongside fellow signing and former Bradford favourite Romain Vincelot.
There was no Abo Eisa in the Town squad. The winger penned a new 18-month Shrews contract hours earlier before joining League Two Colchester on loan. There was no place in the 18 for striker Lee Angol.
Shaun Whalley continued as a sub, where there was no place for Dave Edwards, still injured.
Despite the clear importance of the feature, with three points separating the sides placed 18th and 23rd before a ball was kicked, there was a stark contrast between the euphoric events of Saturday.
Ricketts’ side had to ensure that it was not a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.
The first quarter past largely without incident. Town defending well in their new 3-4-2-1 and looking to hit on the break. Fejiri Okenabirhie did just that from a Bantams corner and his stinging low drive from distance was saved by Richard O’Donnell.
But Town’s task became a bigger one 19 minutes in. Huddersfield loan man Payne took advantage of a James Bolton swing-and-miss to tuck the hosts ahead despite Anthony Grant’s goalline efforts.
It was the second time Payne scored in the 19th minute against Salop, matching his effort in an opening day 1-0 win.
Town’s response to a worrying opener should be credited. Ricketts’ men patiently worked the ball through Grant and Ryan Haynes, before Greg Docherty found an inch-perfect through ball for Okenabirhie’s intelligent run and the top scorer showed effortless composure to finish.
The striker’s 12th goal of the season and first in the league for over a month.
The goals eased any tension but the visitors in particular were playing some lovely football and Grant’s strike from distance tested O’Donnell.
But five minutes before the break Salop were bitten by another Terriers. A couple of ricochettes around the box weren’t cleared and the hosts were sharper to a lose ball as O’Brien thumped in from 22 yards.
Town almost netted a priceless equaliser before the break but Omar Beckles and Luke Waterfall could not reach Docherty’s fine set-piece.
That goal left Town in the bottom four come half-time with results elsewhere going against them.
Ricketts responded with a change, sending on striker Aaron Amadi-Holloway for the sacrificed Josh Laurent.
Big forward Amadi-Holloway was sent up alongside strikepartner Okenabirhie.
Shrewsbury needed to be sharper defensively as too often the home side looked quicker to the ball.
David Ball’s clever skill and shot from outside the box was well blocked by Mat Sadler as Hopkin’s men eyed a telling third.
More loose defending allowed skipper Anthony O’Connor to almost profit from a corner as Steve Arnold was stuck in traffic.
Boss Ricketts sent for Smith as a third striker 10 minutes after the restart but it was the hosts celebrating a third on the hour with Town sliced open again with Doyle netting from a tight angle after a couple of efforts were blocked.
Shrews were being attacked by the minute. O’Brien was somehow denied a second by Arnold from close range before the assistant’s offside flag stopped Salop falling further behind.
As the encounter entered its final third Town began to see more of the ball in dangerous areas but Smith and Amadi-Holloway couldn’t connect to decent openings.
But Shrews’ tails were up for the first time in the half. Haynes limped off after being tripped outside the box and Whalley came on to a hero’s welcome.
But the moment was Okenabirhie, who thrashed in a stunning 22-yard free-kick, from a left angle, into the top corner. It was full of dip and swerve. A stunner.
Salop were all guns blazing at this stage, leaving two defenders back with Whalley trying to dictate things. Doyle shot at Arnold before Beckles somehow denied George Miller.
The visitors could carved out the crucial leveller as Whalley was tripped in the box and Okenabirhie cooly converted to spark wild scenes with the away fans.
But, somehow, it was not over. As naive defending from Shrewsbury allowed Bradford down the right again and Ball converted with aplomb after cutting on to his left foot.
Bradford City (4-2-3-1):
O’Donnell; Caddis, A O’Connor ©, Knight-Percival, Woods (Chicksen, 72); Akpan, O’Brien; Ball, Payne (P O’Connor, 90+1), Wood; Doyle (Miller, 81).
Subs not used: Wilson (gk), Anderson, Devine, Colville.
Shrewsbury Town (3-4-2-1):
Arnold; Beckles, Waterfall, Sadler © (Smith, 57); Bolton, Norburn, Grant, Haynes (Whalley, 76); Docherty, Laurent (Amadi-Holloway, 45); Okenabirhie.
Subs not used: Charles-Cook (gk), Vincelot, Sears, Rowland.
Referee: Scott Oldham
Attendance: 14,906 (144 Shrewsbury fans)