Bristol Rovers 3, Bradford City 3: Guy Branston scores within 30 seconds of debut
On-loan defender Guy Branston scored a goal with his first touch for Bristol Rovers as Mark McGhee's side managed to avoid a third successive defeat by ending all-square with Bradford City at the Memorial Stadium this afternoon.
Branston, who was signed from Aldershot on Thursday to compensate for a deepening injury crisis, announced himself to supporters in the best way possible by rising highest to connect perfectly with a Jim Paterson corner to offer Rovers a lead inside the first 30 seconds.
The early setback, however, served to shake Phil Parkinson's Bradford side into life and they went on to dominate the majority of the opening period. So, it was little surprise when striker Nahki Wells sprung the offside trap in the 28th minute to level matters.
Groans of discontent echoed around the Memorial Stadium – but those expecting McGhee's men to wilt under the pressure of their latest setback would have been pleasantly surprised when Rovers regained the initiative just four minutes later.
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Tom Eaves was the supplier of good fortune on this occasion when controlling a ball aimed in his direction on the edge of the penalty area before swivelling to arrow a shot that beat goalkeeper Matt Duke at his near-post.
Bradford, meanwhile, took advantage of Rovers' failure to get going in the early stages of the second half and were able to restore parity again in the 56th minute when central defender Carl McHugh had the simplest of tasks of powering home a close-range header from a pin-point Gary Jones corner.
Rovers, however, responded in kind six minutes later when Michael Smith pounced on a rebound from Derek Riordan's blocked shot before guiding a low effort through a crowded penalty area and passed the flailing arms of Duke.
They couldn't hold on, though. Bradford levelled again in the 68th minute as striker James Hanson found a yard inside the penalty area to direct a well-delivered Garry Thompson cross into the back of the net off his head to ensure Parkinson's side a share of the spoils. The game ended in controversy as Wayne Brown was handed a second yellow card for a late challenge in stoppage time after which Bradford midfielder Nathan Doyle was also sent off for his part in the ensuing melee.
Branston, meanwhile, was one of five changes McGhee had made to his side in response to a confidence-shattering defeat at Port Vale on Tuesday night. The biggest surprise McGhee had sprung was the inclusion of goal-scorer Smith in an unfamiliar central midfield role in the absence of Matt Lund, who had failed a late fitness test.
Rovers (4-4-2): Walker; Woodards, Kenneth, Branston, Paterson; W Brown; Smith, Clucas, Riordan; Eaves, Anyinsah. Subs: Gough, Gill, L Brown, Norburn, Harding, Lockyer, Santos.
Bradford (4-4-2): Duke; Darby, McArdle, McHugh, Meredith; Thompson, G Jones, Doyle, Atkinson; Hanson, Wells. Subs: McLaughlin, Ravenhill, R Jones, Forsyth, Connell, Naylor, Turgott.