Hopper earns U’s a share of the spoils

Colchester United v Bradford City – Sky Bet League Two – JobServe Community Stadium – Report

Colchester United 1-1 Bradford City

Tom Hopper’s second-half equaliser earned Colchester United a well-deserved share of the Sky Bet League Two spoils against Bradford City in Danny and Nicky Cowley’s first home game in charge of the North Essex outfit.

Having overseen a terrific fightback resulting in a vital point at Swindon a week previous, Cowley was certainly ready for another tough encounter: “We have great respect for Bradford City,” he explained. 

“I think it’s a brilliant football club with some really good people there. Graham Alexander’s a really experienced football man, had a brilliant career, got the very, very most out of his career, and is a hugely experienced manager and has been very successful to this point. 

“He came in just before Christmas. They had a brilliant run over the Christmas period, I think the best one in the club’s history in terms of back-to-back wins.

“They also beat Derby on Tuesday night, so we know we find a team in a good moment and good form and absolutely we’re well aware of their strengths. But I think for us it’s to always focus on us and put our energy into what we can do and what we can control.”

Cowley added: “All week, really, the focus has been on us with and without the ball, because both are equally as important and obviously the restart moment as well.

“We know that in football I think, in League One, last year there were well over eighty set pieces per game. So if you think about that that’s nearly one per minute. So, this part of the game becomes really, really important and we have to keep working at this aspect so that if we can, we will have a tactical advantage over our opponent virtually every minute of the ninety.”

Cowley made two changes to the side that had started the 2-2 draw at Swindon Town, with Cameron McGeehan returning from suspension and new loan signing Jayden Richardson replacing Ellis Iandolo and Marley Marshall Miranda, the latter named amongst the substitutes.

A larger than usual audience and new-found vibrancy greeted the home side. Nevertheless, it was Bradford who enjoyed slightly the better of an otherwise cagey opening. Chances were few and far between. The U’s were guilty of surrendering possession far too easily, much to the frustration of the home crowd.

Matt Jay and Jayden Feverier almost fashioned an opportunity for Hopper from the left. Meanwhile, Andy Cook twice headed chances off-target Bradford continued to look the more likely side to break the deadlock. Cook was determined to make his mark. Ten minutes before the interval he sent a crisp, right-footed strike beyond Owen Goodman and into the net via the foot of an upright, following a cross from Ash Taylor.

Arthur Read’s speculative attempt drifted wide as Colchester tried to redress the situation and reignite the support immediately after the restart. Bradford responded. Harry Chapman’s volley bounced over. 

Cowley shuffled the pack, replacing the ineffective Jay with incoming frontman Conor Wilkinson. The change of formation made an immediate impact. Hopper controlled Dallison’s pass before neatly planting the ball past former U’s stopper Sam Walker to restore parity.

U’s held firm as Jonathan Tomkinson, Alex Gilliead, Cook and Liam Ridehalgh tested the water. But Colchester had found some momentum with Wilkinson giving Bradford cause for concern. The game was now stretched. Substitute, John Akinde saw his goalbound header saved by Walker.

Read’s dipping attempt was tipped over by Walker, while Richie Smallwood’s shot clipped the roof of the net as both sides pressed for a late winner. 

The point kept Colchester at arms-length from the bottom two. They return to Sky Bet League Two action on Friday, January 20 when they face Salford City at the Peninsula Stadium (7:45pm). 

Colchester United: Goodman, Hall, Dallison, Jay (Wilkinson 55’), Chilvers, McGeehan, Hopper (Akinde 83’), Mitchell, Read, Richardson, Fevrier (Edwards 76’) Subs not used: Hornby (GK), Greenidge, Akinde, Marshall Miranda, Ihoinvien

Booked: None

Goals: Hopper 60′

Bradford City: Walker, Halliday, Ridehalgh, Taylor, Smallwood, Cook, Gilliead, Stubbs, Chapman (Oduor 68’), Pointon (Oliver 68’), Tomkinson Subs not used: Doyle, Platt, Smith, Kelly, McDonald.

Booked: None

Goals: Cook 35′

Referee: Scott Simpson

Assistants: Paul Lister-Flynn and Conall Bartlett 

Fourth Official: Hugh Gilroy

Attendance: 4,625 (459 from Bradford City)

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk