BRADFORD CITY 1 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1Michael Jacobs’ superb finish shortly after half time earned Latics a well-deserved point which stretches their unbeaten run to eight matches in Sky Bet League One and sees them climb into the Play-Off places for the first time this season.
Bradford City, roared on by a huge crowd, went into the game on the back of three straight wins and having dealt with long-balls and set pieces immaculately all afternoon, one eventually found a way past the Latics rearguard when James Hanson converted a Tony McMahon corner.
Latics enjoyed the lion’s share of possession throughout the afternoon and looked to find a way through until the last few seconds of the game but the point keeps up the unbeaten run and sees them climb up to 5th in League One – the highest of the season.
Caldwell had the luxury of naming an unchanged starting eleven for the third match in a row, with vice-captain Jason Pearce replacing Jordy Hiwula being the one change on the bench.
The game burst into life with barely a minute gone as David Perkins was forced into a clearance in front of Jussi Jaaskelainen and the ball fell to Yanic Wildschut on the right side just inside the Bradford half. He went on a trademark dribble, his effort eventually bulging the side netting inches wide of the post.
But then the game quietened down and although there was plenty of effort from Latics, they were not able to take advantage of the opportunities and possession they created before the break.
Rory McArdle directed Reece Burke’s left wing cross well wide of Jaaskelainen left hand post after ten minutes before Latics worked three opportunities in quick succession.
Firstly, Jacobs received Max Power’s through ball on the turn midway inside the Bradford half, he drove into the area and shot powerfully, Ben Williams wasn’t able to hold the ball and it trickled out for a corner when for a second it looked as if it might go in the net.
Reece James managed to find space in the area from a short-corner routine and Williams had to parry over. Then Power saw an audacious effort from 40 yards whistle narrowly over the cross bar.
City responded with a succession of dangerous crosses and high balls into the box that tested the Latics defence, the closest to a goal probably when James Hanson’s header was cleared by Chris McCann five yards out.
Another great piece of improvisation from Jacobs saw him burst through the middle on 25 minutes, his run unceremoniously brought to an end by Stephen Darby on the edge of the box, for which the City skipper received a booking. Power struck the free-kick, which took a wicked deflection off Will Grigg, but went just wide.
Latics then enjoyed their most sustained spell of possession up until the break but without making the breakthrough. Grigg did have the ball in the net with a terrific finish from just inside the area but was ruled offside – it must have been close – before another Wildschut run, this time on the left, saw him cross to Jacobs on the opposite side, who tried to set up Grigg but it was cleared.
Bradford came out firing for the second half as expected, forcing four corners in succession, including one from a half-volley by McMahon from 20 yards which Jaaskelainen had to tip over his crossbar.
But Latics responded brilliantly. Caldwell replaced Donervon Daniels with Donald Love after 51 minutes and the change paid immediate dividends. The Manchester United loanee drove powerfully down the right hand side and set up Jacobs on the edge of the box, who took a shot before smashing home a drive which Williams got fingers on but wasn’t able to stop from hitting the back of his net.
In a frenetic spell Jacobs, then Wildschut had chances to increase the lead, but Jacobs’ final ball out to Love was too strong and Wildschut fired into the side netting.
Bradford had claims for a penalty when Devante Cole went down in the area, which the referee dismissed, and Hanson headed straight at Jaaskelainen from a dangerous free-kick on the right side.
Grant Holt replaced Grigg on the hour mark but before he was able to make his mark, City were level, predictably enough through a set piece.
McMahon swung in a corner after 63 minutes, Hanson met it near the penalty spot and it sailed through a crowded area into the net.
Craig Davies immediately replaced Wildschut as Latics looked to regain the lead they had worked so hard to earn.
As we entered into the final quarter of an hour, it was a fascinating situation, which looked as if it could go either way. Latics were doing all the pressing, with Bradford absorbing the pressure and looking to break quickly.
Latics created an opening in the 82nd minute after a good interchange found James in space cutting in from the left but his shot from the edge of the box was a yard over. Holt and Love also had efforts on goal, both narrowly off target as Latics were still the dominant team in the final stages.
Five minutes of additional time were announced and still Latics pressed forwards in search of a winner but in the end had to contend with a share of the spoils in front of a near 20,000 crowd at the Coral Windows Stadium.