Oct 14 2013 by Our Correspondent, Main WIR
RYAN LOWE’S well-struck goal lifted Tranmere off the bottom of League One as they claimed their first league win since August at the expense of high-flying Bradford.
The striker caught the Bradford back line napping from a long ball over the top and produced a wonderful finish on 69 minutes after it looked as though Tranmere would be playing for the point.
Rovers had to sustain a number of Bradford counter-attacks but kept their opponents’ chances limited with a solid defensive performances led by midfielder Tom Hateley.
Both goalkeepers had a quiet day and had to make just a pair of saves each, but with Bradford having won four of their last five games and Tranmere winless since August 31, Rovers fans will savour these three points. The visitors received something of a boost from Wales manager Chris Coleman, who allowed Owain Fon Williams a break from his international duties to tend the Rovers goal.
Bradford, meanwhile, were missing injured striker Nahki Wells, who alone had scored more league goals than Tranmere this season, as well as defenders Carl McHugh and Rory McArdle, who were both on international duty.
Those absences gave Rovers the belief that they might just be able to beat the odds and take something from Valley Parade, and they set up to stifle their opposition from the outset.
Tranmere did their job well in the first half as they looked to keep the ball away from the Bantams, with Hateley protecting the Rovers back line well whenever Bradford did manage to get possession.
Bradford should still have taken the lead 12 minutes in, though, as James Hanson hooked Ian Goodison’s timely clearance back into the box for Bradford full-back Stephen Darby, but the former Liverpool man blazed over the bar.
Goodison was making his 400th appearance for Tranmere and won’t have had many busier afternoons, with Bradford fans twice claiming for a penalty against the Rovers skipper on the 20-minute mark.
Referee Darren Drysdale disagreed on those occasions, but really should have taken firmer action against the defender on 27 minutes after he planted his forearm into the face of Bantams winger Kyel Reid.
The incident occurred right in front of home manager Phil Parkinson and he reacted angrily to the challenge, with players and coaches alike piling into the confrontation on the sidelines and both bosses making angry remonstrations to the referee.
The officials finally got things under control and Goodison was lucky to receive only a yellow card once the dust had settled, much to the ire of Parkinson and the Valley Parade crowd.
Bradford had another penalty shout five minutes from the interval as Mark Yeates hit the deck under pressure from Ash Taylor, but again Drysdale waved the protests away.
Tranmere finally tested the goalkeeper moments later, with Chris Atkinson sending Jon McLaughlin scrambling to make a save at the bottom corner from Liam Ridehalgh’s inch-perfect cross.
McLaughlin then had to get all the way up into the other corner in stoppage time before the break to deny Jim McNulty’s surprise shot – whether the full-back had meant it or not, everyone else had expected a cross.
Tranmere looked to start the second half with plenty of energy, and Hateley’s fierce low shot in the first minute after the interval drifted just a yard wide of the post.
City fought back to seize control of the game, however, and it took another good intervention from Goodison – who looked much more composed after half-time – to deny Hanson an excellent opportunity just before the hour mark.
Rovers gave the strong impression that they would accept a draw shortly afterwards, with Williams twice warned by the referee for taking too long over his goal-kicks.
Williams needed to react somewhat more quickly on 64 minutes as Reid escaped the attentions of Danny Holmes before firing a low shot at the Welshman from the edge of the box.
Then came Lowe’s cracking finish – a superb right-footed drive into the far corner from the right-hand side of the Bradford box which sent three-quarters of the ground into silence and the travelling fans into raptures.
Predictably, Bradford began to play increasingly desperate football as they searched for an equaliser, with Jason Kennedy lifting a good lob just over the Tranmere bar from 25 yards.
Yeates went closer still six minutes later, spotting Williams off his line from the corner of the penalty box and curling a dipping shot onto the far stanchion.
Williams finally received a deserved booking for his blatant time wasting eight minutes from the final whistle before tipping over substitute Raffaele De Vita’s 25-yard piledriver in the dying seconds to preserve Rovers’ second win in 11 league games.