Gilliead strikes late as Bradford fight back to hold Grimsby

Alex Gilliead struck an 89th-minute equaliser to earn Bradford a hard-fought 1-1 home draw against Grimsby.

The visitors deservedly took the lead with 43 minutes gone, following a positive, front foot start at Valley Parade, when Danny Rose headed in an inviting cross from Toby Mullarkey.

But, after the Bantams were booed off at half time, Mark Hughes tweaked their setup, which eventually came good with one minute of the 90 remaining, as Gilliead fired across Jake Eastwood after a neat ball from Bobby Pointon.

Extending their unbeaten league run to five games, Grimsby move up to eighth in Sky Bet League Two, while Bradford move up one place to 14th.

How Bradford fought back after half-time boos

Without a win against Bradford in 24 years, Grimsby started on the front foot on Saturday lunchtime – and successfully pinned their hosts back for long periods as a result. However, they often struggled to create chances, save for Arthur Gnahoua’s early strike, which Harry Lewis dived to his left to keep from crossing the line.

It was a similar story for the Bantams in that respect, too. In fact, by the 40-minute mark, there had been more cards produced by referee Sam Purkiss (four) than there had been shots (two).

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Danny Rose’s header puts Grimsby 1-0 up against Bradford

Shortly afterwards, however, the Mariners took the lead their positivity deserved. Mullarkey controlled a long ball on the right-hand side and delivered an inviting ball into the box, where Rose leapt to meet it and find the bottom left corner.

The aforementioned boos at the break seemingly spurred Hughes into making changes. He brought on Gilliead and Rayhaan Tulloch, switched to a back four – and there was an immediate reaction. From there, it was the true definition of a game of two halves.

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Alex Gilliead might just have saved the day for Bradford with a last-gasp leveller

As the minutes ticked by, it looked as though luck would not be on Bradford’s side. Yet they managed to level the game when Pointon – on his first start for the club – dropped the ball off to Gilliead, who shifted it onto his right foot and fired across the face of goal and into the bottom left corner.

Player of the match – Alex Gilliead

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Bradford’s Alex Gilliead said it was ‘lovely’ to earn a point for his side against Grimsby after admitting he doesn’t score that often

The managers

Bradford’s Mark Hughes:

“In the second half, we took the game to them. We made a few changes. Listen, it wasn’t easy today. We’ve had four home debuts after some disruption to our playing 11 and we’re having to move things around a little bit.

“In the first half we had a plan of trying to get a good press on and we didn’t do that in any way, shape or form, so we had to change it very quickly.

“In the second half, we went to four at the back and that helped us a great deal. Then we forced the issue and got the goal we deserved. All in all, the second half, maybe, just maybe, makes up for the first half.”

Grimsby’s Paul Hurst:

“We didn’t kill the game off. They clearly had a change of system and a response after that first half when we were so dominant. They were the better team in the second half, in the main, but I still felt, over the course of it, we carried a bit more threat, even in the second half compared to the first.

“Jake [Eastwood] has hardly had anything to do, but a player I know well, Gilliead, scores a really good goal. There’s a little disappointment there, but I’m proud of how they played in the first half and, to a degree, in the second, in what were extremely tough conditions for both sets of players.”

What’s next?

Both teams are back in action at 3pm on Saturday September 16. Bradford host Harrogate at Valley Parade, while Grimsby travel to North Wales to take on Wrexham at STōK Cae Ras.

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