Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
City were held at home for the first time since August as four goals from set-pieces were shared in another entertaining Ashton Gate affair.
Aden Flint scored early and late in the game – the second of which looked like being a winner until Christopher Routis fired an even later equaliser four minutes from time.
Billy Clarke’s deflected header had previously cancelled out Flint’s headed opener in the first half, but City’s club record 14th unbeaten match to start a league season would ultimately come via the least desired outcome.
Steve Cotterill kept faith in the same starting XI who triumphed in front of nearly 4,000 travelling fans at Coventry on Saturday, with Korey Smith still not fit enough to return from a hamstring injury.
For the fifth league game running City took no time in getting their noses in front.
Cotterill had acknowledged the threat from set-pieces of a tall Bradford side in the build up to the game but the roles were soon reversed inside eight minutes.
City initially felt aggrieved when referee Darren Bond brought the play back to award them a free kick when Mark Little looked to have brushed off a foul and crossed for Aaron Wilbraham to score, but Luke Freeman’s ensuing delivery was given equally decisive treatment by Flint
from six yards.
Whilst Marlon Pack’s 11th minute daisy-cutter at the Ricoh Arena paved the way for a first half of almost total control, Flint’s header instead sparked a swift response from the opposition.
Within seconds of the restart, on-loan Middlesbrough winger Andy Halliday met a Mark Yeates cross at the back post with a shot back across goal which only just eluded the far upright.
City then had the chance to double their lead when Kieran Agard miscued a left-footed shot towards the bottom corner before Bradford struck from a set-piece of their own, as Clarke
’s header from Yeates’ cross deflected beyond Frank Fielding to level the scores.
Moments later City were on the ropes as the lively Yeates curled a shot towards the top corner which came back off Fielding’s crossbar perfectly for Clarke, only for the striker to send the follow-up against the post from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
It was wide open stuff as has become the norm at Ashton Gate in recent weeks, and soon enough Freeman was cashing in on a moment of hesitation in the Bradford backline to surge towards the penalty area and send a gorgeous low ball across the six-yard box.
It looked inch perfect for Agard, but the frontman only succeeded in sending the ball beyond the far post as he slid in to meet it in front of goal.
A measure of control finally intervened for the final minutes of the first half, but the contest’s previously frantic nature took little time to kick in again after the interval.
Initially it was City applying all the pressure, as Wade Elliott and Pack both threatened from distance either side of a half-chance for Joe Bryan at the back post.
But as the hour mark approached Bradford grew in confidence. Former Ashton Gate favourite Jon Stead found Halliday in space out on the right, who cut inside and forced an uncomfortable stooping save out of Fielding.
Moments later the keeper was asked questions again in having to parry a cross from the right into the path of the onrushing Yeates, whose placed shot from 20 yards was only a yard or two wide.
City remained hungry for a winner but were restricted to shots from distance up against a deep-lying Bradford defence – perhaps part of Cotterill’s thinking behind sacrificing Agard for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas with more than 20 minutes still to play.
By this time the manager had already introduced Greg Cunningham for Bryan to inject some extra freshness.
It looked as if an individual error would decide the outcome in City’s favour eight minutes from time when Bradford keeper Jordan Pickford dropped a Freeman corner and Flint
pounced for his second of the night.
But still the drama was not over, as Routis
struck a second equaliser following another dead ball, as a half-cleared corner dropped kindly for the defender in acres of space to lash the loose ball in off the underside of the bar.
It was a late heartbreaker for City, but not enough to prevent a club record 14th successive game without defeat to start a league campaign.