Bradford City 0 Harrogate Town 1 - Lloyd Kerry’s golden finish secures local bragging rights
A resident in the Harrogate area, the Bradford City manager has noticed the proliferation in the number of people wearing the yellow and black striped shirts of the town’s all-conquering club – who have been in full bloom in a golden 2020 – when walking on the spa town’s vast public parkland.
McCall may have been effusive in his praise of the remarkable rise of Harrogate Town, but he was naturally anxious to prevent Simon Weaver’s side from penning another page in their compelling story at a venue where the visitors could have only dreamed of striding out for a league fixture a few years back.
Unfortunately, for his sake, it was duly filed by an impressive Harrogate side who fully deserved to crown their first league visit to BD8 with a maiden victory on derby day.
The breakthrough to gild a perfect away-day arrived 16 minutes from time when the excellent Lloyd Kerry turned in Jack Muldoon’s low centre.
McCall spoke of Harrogate’s winning mentality and stylish football ahead of the game and it was showcased against his side.
He also labelled Town as a top-half League Two team and it was hard to argue with his sentiments either.
For his counterpart Weaver, this was an evening which he should derive a great deal of pleasure from.
Weaver’s previous two experiences at Valley Parade as Harrogate’s manager were ones he is entitled to instantly forget with his side losing to Eccleshill United in the West Riding County Cup final in 2014 and then beaten in the showpiece against Bradford Park Avenue two years later.
This latest visit, in front of a watching nationwide TV audience, had a far grander build-up in a meeting that everyone connected with Harrogate will have instantly circled when the fixtures came out. More’s the pity that their followers were unable to witness it in person.
Weaver had spoken about the perils of his players getting ‘starry eyed’ ahead of kick-off, but there was little evidence of that on a night when they took the game to City and looked in no way overawed.
Their work rate was prodigious and their approach work was crisp and probing, particularly down Bradford’s left.
It was that particular avenue that produced Harrogate’s best first-half chance in the 33rd minute when ex-City loanee Jon Stead was afforded the sort of opportunity that he has dined out upon throughout his career.
The cross from the fit-again Muldoon was inch-perfect and Stead got a good connection with a firm downward header, but Richard O’Donnell was equal to it and made a fine reaction save to claw out the goalbound effort.
O’Donnell had earlier shown his mettle to make a brave block to prevent Stead from forcing home the rebound after he spilled Kerry’s strike from distance.
The City captain also had to be alert to turn over a cross-shot from the lively George Thomson in the nick of time as Harrogate pressed from the off.
The visitors boasted better possession levels, yet City carried threat on the break and got between the lines on occasions in a watchable affair which produced a plethora of chances.
Top-scorer Lee Novak’s half-volley yielded a smart reaction save from James Belshaw and the Town keeper was also in the right place to block a fierce strike from Clayton Donaldson.
Novak planted a header wide ahead of the break, while the marauding Ryan Fallowfield was off target at the other end in a half where the only thing lacking was a goal.
McCall’s interval decision to bring off Gareth Evans - handed his first start since his return to City - and throw on Callum Cooke was testament to Harrogate’s dominance in midfield, which he felt compelled to address.
Cooke had the opportunity to play a telling hand soon after the resumption, but fired a low shot wide of an inviting goal after clever work from Donaldson.
Despite expending plenty of energy in the first period, Harrogate did not relent in their high-octane approach and continued to ask questions.
The presence of a pace option on the bench in Austin Samuels represented a tantalising option for McCall and he was soon warming up.
Given the amount of shouting being done by McCall in the direction of his players, it was clear he was not overly happy, with Fallowfield causing his side problems in particular.
A breakthrough for either side still proved stubbornly elusive with Samuels eventually arriving on the scene, but the key development would arrive elsewhere.
The goal Harrogate had been threatening came in polished fashion when Kerry turned the ball home from close in and Bradford could have no complaints.
A header from replacement Brendan Kiernan almost gave Harrogate a two-goal cushion, while Samuels blew his chance to shine when he was wayward with a late chance.
Bradford City: O’Donnell; French, A O’Connor, Staunton, Wood; Watt, Sutton, Evans (Cooke 45), Clarke (Samuels 69); Donaldson (Guthrie 81), Novak. Substitutes unused: Hornby, Hosannah, Richards-Everton, Pritchard.
Harrogate Town: Belshaw; Fallowfield, Smith, Hall, Burrell; Thomson, Falkingham, Kerry, Miller; Stead (Martin 80), Muldoon (Kiernan 83). Substitutes unused: Cracknell, Jones, Kirby, Walker.
Referee: D Drysdale (Lincolnshire).
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today.
Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers.
So, please - if you can - pay for our work. Just £5 per month is the starting point. If you think that which we are trying to achieve is worth more, you can pay us what you think we are worth. By doing so, you will be investing in something that is becoming increasingly rare. Independent journalism that cares less about right and left and more about right and wrong. Journalism you can trust.
Thank you, James Mitchinson. Editor.