Jason Kennedy’s tap in six minutes from time snatched all three points for Bradford City in a 3-2 thriller with MK Dons at stadium:mk.
Despite seeing more of the ball and hitting the woodwork in the opening 20 minutes, Dons fell behind to a Nahki Wells strike in City’s first decent attack. Patrick Bamford equalised for Dons, but Kyel Reid’s miscued cross sailed over McLoughlin three minutes before the break to put City 2-1 up.
Shaun Williams netted a penalty to square things up with 20 minutes to go, before Kennedy found himself unmarked at the far post to tap home Mark Yeates’ cross.
Dele Alli returned to the starting line-up for the first time since the 4-1 win over Stevenage in September. Izale McLeod’s two goals against Halifax in the FA Cup were rewarded with his second home start of the season, and England U21 international Patrick Bamford slotted in behind him.
Despite a strong attacking quartet named by Karl Robinson, it was set-piece maestro Shaun Williams who had the first chance of the match. After a clumsy foul on Alli on the edge of the box by Rory McArdle, Williams’ gently clipped free kick looked to have the better of keeper Jon McLaughlin but not the cross bar as it bounced off the woodwork after six minutes.
Bamford then got in the act, but his fiercely hit shot swerved the wrong side of the post as the home side got into their groove early on. He fired over again after Lee Hodson’s brilliant wrong-foot defence splitting pass as Dons continued to pen Bradford in.
And Dons were made to rue their inability to capitalise when City scored with their first real attack. A short free kick on the right flank saw Garry Thompson send in a low, innocuous ball into the box but the faintest of touches from Nahki Wells steered it past Ian McLoughlin to give them a 21st minute lead.
Daniel Powell should have levelled things up within two minutes though as Dons went about an immediate equaliser. Slid in behind by a fantastic Alli pass, Powell had just keeper McLaughlin to beat, but the keeper spread himself well and got a leg to the strike.
There were a few rough house challenges being thrown around by the City side - Stephen Darby and Jason Kennedy were both lucky not to be booked for heavy tackles on Alli and Gleeson.
Wells’ strike had little affect on Dons’ approach and they were back on level terms nine minutes before the break. The ball reset back to Potter on halfway, and like a slide rule, he played in Bamford behind defender Rory McArdle. Despite the rush from McLaughlin, Bamford held his nerve to cleverly roll the ball under the advancing keeper.
There was still another sting in the tail for Dons though, as an unlikely Kyel Reid effort put Bradford ahead three minutes before half time. Jinking and twisting in an attempt to lose his man Hodson, Reid found himself a yard to angle a ball in to Wells at the far post. But his miscued lob caught everyone out, including Ian McLoughlin as it sailed over his head and into the net, ensuring City went in ahead at the break.
Both sides knew the next goal would be decisive in the outcome of the game, and thus both set up in the second half desperate to get it. Bamford sent a shot wide and had an agonising cross just inches away from Izale McLeod in the opening exchanges, while City saw James Hanson head just wide of the goal at the other end, before Wells hit the post with a well-taken free kick 20 yards out.
For all their pressure and possession, Dons were making few inroads into Bradford. Daniel Powell forced a good stop from McLaughlin after a strong solo run into the area, and substitute Ben Reeves’ strike was deflected wide after Bradford failed to clear a corner.
But Dons were given a huge helping hand, which didn’t initially look like it was going to come, with 20 minutes to go. After some good interplay between Williams and Reeves on the Dons right, the former slipped in Alli, who had his heels clipped by Wells tracking back. Though his assistant was unmoved, referee Ward had a long, hard think about it before finally pointing to the spot. Williams made no mistakes with the spot kick, sending McLaughlin the wrong way to equalise.
After that, Dons looked like the only side likely to score, especially with Reeves and Alli looking desperate to get on the ball at every opportunity. Both had strikes just wide, and looked tenacious in closing down the City defenders.
But such are the way things go at stadium:mk, it was Bradford who would score late on to wrap up all three points. Given acres of space beyond Hodson, substitute Mark Yeates first contribution was to slide a ball across the face of goal, leaving McLoughlin stricken at the near post, and allowing Jason Kennedy the simplest of tap ins to win it for City.
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 8,970 (1,004)
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Lewington, Hodson, Williams, Spence, Potter, Gleeson, Alli, Powell, Bamford, McLeod (Reeves 59)
Subs not used: Burns, Flanagan, Smith, Baldock, Banton, Carruthers
Bradford City: McLaughlin, Darby, Meredith, Reid (Yeates 82) Kennedy, Hanson, Thompson (Doyle 76) Wells, Bates, McArdle
Subs not used: Ripley, Taylor, Connell, De Vita, McBurnie
Booked: Spence, Thompson, Alli, Meredith