James Vaughan’s second half penalty ensured Bradford City secured themselves all three points as Newport County AFC suffered a 1-0 defeat the Utilita Energy Stadium.
The hosts deserved it on balance of the contest and Vaughan coolly slotted past Townsend from the spot on 58 minutes and County, despite a valiant effort, couldn’t find a late equaliser.
Michael Flynn elected to make seven changes to the youthful side which battled to Leasing.Com Trophy progression in midweek against Brighton & Hove Albion U21s – Danny McNamara, Taylor Maloney, George Nurse and Matty Dolan retaining their spots.
The Exiles reverted back to the familiar 3-4-1-2 formation so often used, but a plethora of injury problems – which included Robbie Willmott going off in the warmup – meant some players were found in unfamiliar positions right from kick-off.
Ryan Haynes – who has already filled numerous positions this season – was this time deployed at left centre-half, while Nurse slotted in at left-wing-back and Matty Dolan moved up to shield the defence.
County had their fair share of possession in the opening 45 minutes but they struggled to create anything with it as all the moments of note came from a Bradford perspective.
Bantams striker Aramide Oteh was a class above the rest when running in behind into the channels and the fact he was fouled on at least five occasions showed how much of a danger he was when popping up all over the pitch.
He was almost too honest for his own good after 16 minutes, if he’d have gone down under a shirt pull from Ryan Inniss then he may have got a penalty but in fairness he stayed on his feet and curled an effort over the top.
The 21-year old had the ball in the net after half an hour from a corner kick but the referee had already blown the whistle for a bit of pushing and shoving inside the penalty area.
His pace was putting him into dangerous positions and a good ball over the top could have completely sent him clear, he put a shot into the ribcage of Nick Townsend in first-half stoppage time but Oteh couldn’t end the half with a goal his performance deserved.
Bantams centre-half Kelvin Mellor was the only other player from either side to even get a sighting at goal, he was found by a Jake Reeves free-kick after 36 minutes, but he couldn’t quite get the desired connection and it sailed over the crossbar.
County’s attackers didn’t get many moments in the first half such was the formidable defensive effort from Bradford, but it was a completely different equation after the restart.
The Exiles seemed a yard sharper and generally quicker getting to the second balls, Tristan Abrahams nipped the ball off Paudie O’Connor on 47 minutes and wasn’t too far away with a stinging 25-yard drive.
County were looking good value at the start of the second period but that all came unstuck, temporarily, just before the hour mark.
It was frustrating because Inniss did so well to stop a Bradford attack, he spun the chasing player well too, but then under hit a back pass which sent prolific goal scorer James Vaughan clean through on goal.
The 31-year old arguably made it more difficult for himself because he went searching for a dismissal for Townsend when going to ground easily – he could easily have gone around the shot stopper and tapped it home but when for the penalty.
In fairness, he showed nerves of steel to send Townsend the wrong way – County’s goalkeeper rightfully shown a yellow – as he gave Bradford the lead and sent the majority of the Utilita Energy Stadium into rapture.
The Bradford faithful were almost on their feet again after 66 minutes and they would have been had it not been for a save of the season contender from Townsend.
Oteh rose highest to meet a pinpoint free-kick and send a header back across goal from back post to front, Townsend was moving the wrong way watching the ball yet somehow managed to leap back and tip it away via his crossbar.
From one save of the season contender to another seven minutes later, County failed to clear a delivery into the area and the ball fell kindly to O’Connor who looked to hit the target, only for Townsend to repel the attempt at point blank range.
County pushed for an equaliser in the time remaining and the nine minutes of additional time but nothing could be found as County suffered defeat in West Yorkshire.
Bradford City (3-5-2): Richard O’Donnell, Adam Henley, Kelvin Mellor, Paudie O’Connor, Anthony O’Connor, Connor Wood, Jake Reeves, Callum Cooke (Tyler French 90+9’), Chris Taylor (Jermaine Anderson 90+5’), James Vaughan (C), Aramide Oteh (Dylan Connolly 88’)
Subs not used: Sykes-Kenworthy, Ismail, McCartan, Palmer
Newport County AFC (3-4-1-2): Nick Townsend, Danny McNamara (Dominic Poleon 76’), Mark O’Brien (C), Ryan Inniss, Ryan Haynes, George Nurse, Matty Dolan (Lewis Collins 86’), Josh Sheehan, Padraig Amond (Jamille Matt 65’), Tristan Abrahams
Subs not used: King, Jefferies, Hillier, Woodiwiss
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Attendance: 14,060 (350 AWAY)
Next up for County: Stevenage (December 14th) HOME