Ten man Rochdale secured a point against Bradford City on Tuesday night in a hard fought out match at Spotland.
The visitors had the majority of possession and opportunities after Bobby Grant was shown red for his challenge on Rory McArdle on 35 minutes but following another outstanding performance from the Dale defence, the Bantams were unable to break the deadlock as Rochdale held them to a goalless draw in an entertaining encounter.
The match saw the return of several familiar faces to Spotland as the Bantams arrived with former Dale defenders Stephen Darby and Rory McArdle and winger Will Atkinson. Former Rochdale Manager Steve Parkin, who had two stints as Dale boss, was in the away dugout as alongside Bradford’s Phil Parkinson but there was no return to Rochdale for former skipper Gary Jones who missed the match against his former club through injury.
There was just one to the Dale side that triumphed over Gillingham on Saturday as Kevin McIntyre returned from suspension to replace Matt Pearson in the left back position.
It was end to end football during the first half with both teams having their share of opportunities.
Rochdale were playing some neat and swift football and with two minutes on the clock George Donnelley came within inches of opening the scoring. He latched onto the end of a through ball before driving a powerful effort goalward, his shot rattled off the stanchion behind the woodwork.
A minute later and Dale were awarded a free kick after the referee adjudged that Dele Adebola had been felled 40 yards from goal. Bobby Grant stepped up to take the resulting set piece but despite taking a bounce in front of goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, the ‘keeper made the save look comfortable in the end.
The game continued at a high temp pace and Bradford applied the pressure on the Rochdale goal but were unable to break Dale down.
On seven minutes, Nathan Doyle sent a powerful drive from 20 yards towards goal forcing Josh Lillis into the first of many fine saves during the half.
Shortly after and a brave Lillis was on hand again to see off a dangerous ball which had been knocked down across the face of goal following a Kyel Reid free-kick.
With 25 minutes on the clock James Hanson had yet another opportunity for the Bantams as he sent a header wide of the upright after getting on the end of a cross across the face of goal.
And just moments later the visitors had their best chance of the half when Rory McArdle was denied only by Lillis who was in the right place at the right time to keep out the former Dale defender who had got a head onto a free kick played into the box by substitute Zavon Hines who had been on the pitch little more than a minute.
The talking point of the match followed when Bobby Grant was shown a straight red card on 35 minutes for a challenge on McArdle infront of the away fans in the Willbutts Lane End. The referee showed no hesitation in his decision as he produced the card.
The Bantams looked to make the most of the extra man and were denied on several occasions in the run up to half time by the strong Dale defence.
On 39 minutes James Hanson came close after sending the ball goalwards at speed after striking the ball on the turn from inside the area.
They then had three efforts in quick succession as Dale failed to clear their lines and but were denied by Ryan Edwards, Phil Edwards and McIntyre who threw their bodies in the way to block each effort as the Bantams sent the ball in on goal.
In stoppage time Rochdale thought they had found an opening but as Tutte then Donnelly smashed the ball at the Bradford goal, Adebola could only get a toe on the ball as it eventually fell for him less than six yards out and it was collected by ‘keeper McLaughlin.
There were no changes for Dale at interval as John Coleman continued as was for the start of the second half.
The visitors continued in similar fashion as the first 45 minutes and enjoyed large spells of possession, but were unable to find a way past the Rochdale defence despite applying the pressure in the final third.
This was true for much of the half and although Phil Parkinson’s men put Dale under the cosh with fast attacking football, they had no clear cut opportunities thanks to the work rate of the back four and keeper Lillis.
The best of the opportunities for Bradford came shortly after the re-start and after the hour mark with Lillis denying both Ricky Ravenhill and Nakhi Wells respectively.
Skipper Ravenhill, who rattled a shot goalwards from inside the area was kept out by an alert Lillis who punched the effort away and back into play.
Wells tested Lillis from 30 yards out with driving effort but the ‘keeper got down to collect the pacey strike as it spun towards goal.
As the game continued, much of Dale’s attacking play came through Donnelly who’s work rate was impressive through-out. In a counter attack he sped forward taking the ball past three Bantam players but went a man too far and was denied the chance to get the ball into the box.
This seemed to give the players a lift and they pressed forward applying pressure of their own on the visitors.
On 74 minutes, Donnelly was again in the thick of the action after Tutte picked him out with a cross into a packed box. The striker, who had his back to goal controlled the ball impeccably as he turned but in the end was unable to get the shot away.
Straight up the other end and Bradford saw yet an effort creep inches past the upright following a glancing header from Garry Thompson across the face of goal.
And on 84 minutes, Joe Rafferty was the man to thank as he cleared an Andrew Davies shot from less than six yards out off the line.
Moments later and Rafferty was again superb as he put in a fantastic challenge to stop Hines in his tracks as charged through on goal.
In a strange end to the game it was a case of a fox in the box which meant a brief lull in play as a young fox cub made its way onto the pitch from the Pearl Street Stand, across the pitch and out ground via the Sandy Lane end as the players and fans looked on in bemusement.
It finished Rochdale 0, Bradford 0.