Swindon Town played out a frustrating goal-less draw with Bradford City on Saturday afternoon bringing their run of three consecutive wins in the league to an end. Despite playing the majority of the second half against ten men at The County Ground, Town failed to find a way through the visitors' resolute and packed defence, writes Tom Otrebski.
Paolo Di Canio made just one change to the side that had beaten Gillingham on Tuesday, Mehdi Kerrouche was back among the starting eleven, partnering Jake Jervis in attack. Goalkeeper Phil Smith was back on the bench after recovering from a recent injury. Cristian Montano also dropped to the bench after making way for Kerrouche. The first half almost roared into life after five minutes. Aden Flint rolled a simple back-pass to on-loan 'keeper Wes Foderingham who proceeded to pick up the ball to the disbelief of those watching. Thankfully for Town, the resulting indirect free-kick was blocked by Matt Ritchie who had come charging out to meet the ball.
Despite the lively opening, the rest of the half failed to live up to the expectations set by the opening exchanges. A thunderous, 30-yard free-kick from Paul Caddis was the only real occasion on which Matt Duke in the Bradford goal was forced into some significant action. Matt Ritchie was also in the hunt for another goal to add to his collection and he almost managed another wonderful strike but his curling effort from the right-hand edge of the box dropped onto the roof of the net.
Town started the second forty-five brightly but it was to be the referee's influence that would change the game in Town's favour. Bradford were reduced to ten men shortly into the half. Andy Davies went through the back of Jake Jervis as the ball was played up-field out of Town's defence and the Bradford man was shown a straight red card by Mr Langford. Despite their advantage, Town were to be frustrated by a resolute Bradford side for the rest of the half as chances came and went. Liam Ridehalgh's inviting cross from the left found both Kerrouche and Ritchie free at the far post only for the former to head across goal and wide when perhaps the latter was better positioned to score. Paul Caddis was next in line to be denied as he worked his way into the box and saw his final effort blocked.
Montano came on to replace Raffaele Da Vita and he too was guilty of squandering a good opportunity. Simon Ferry's intricate through ball found Caddis on the right and as the skipper wriggled his way into the box - his ball across the area found a host of red shirts queuing up at the far post. Montano was first to the loose ball but his shot was well blocked by a packed defence. With ten minutes to play, Alan Connell replaced Kerrouche; perhaps the perfect stage for the former Grimsby man to have written Sunday morning's headlines. Sadly for the Town, despite all the effort, it seemed as if fate had already decided that Bradford were going to come away from Wiltshire with a clean sheet.
As the match entered its final stages, Montano had a wonderful chance to score the winner. Having headed a Caddis cross wide minutes earlier, he collected Ridehalgh's through ball, beat the full-back on the edge of the area and curled a shot across the face of goal and agonisingly wide. The four added minutes failed to yield a winner for either side and no doubt Paolo Di Canio will see a goal-less draw at home against a team playing with ten men as two points dropped.
While Town's winning run is now over, their next outing at Port Vale provides a good opportunity to start again perched on the edge of the play-off picture in the League 2 table.