WALSALL 1-1 BRADFORDIsaiah Osbourne scored his first Walsall goal in a battling draw with high-flying Bradford.
After an instantly-forgettable first-half, the Saddlers took the lead on 49 minutes when Osbourne collected Scott Laird’s cross and fired into the bottom corner.
But the Bantams hit back just four minutes later, with ex-Saddler Jordy Hiwula netting from a tight angle after his initial effort was saved by the impressive Neil Etheridge.
Stuart McCall’s City signalled their attacking intent from the outset, with Mark Marshall testing Neil Etheridge with a thumping near-post strike from James Meredith’s deflected cross.
Shortly after, Timothee Dieng fired straight down the throat of Etheridge with a fizzing long-range effort as the Bantams continued to do most of the early running.
Walsall’s first meaningful attempt came on 14 minutes, Scott Laird with a 30-yard free-kick which went through the ball and bounced up for Colin Doyle to gather with ease.
There was precious little goalmouth incident in the remainder of a dour first-half.
The visitors did threaten six minutes before half-time, when a corner was worked out to Josh Cullen, whose right-footed was pushed away by Etheridge.
Half-time: Walsall 0-0 Bradford
The Philippines international came to the home side’s rescue again after the break, getting down smartly to turn away Cullen’s low 20-yard strike.
But it was the Saddlers who took the lead on 49 minutes with their first attempt of the second period.
Scott Laird’s left-wing cross was collected by Isaiah Osbourne, who drove an angled left-footed shot across Doyle and just inside the far post for his first Walsall goal.
The hosts were almost pegged back immediately, when Mereditch cut the ball back for Hiwula, but he completely miss-hit his shot from close-range.
But the Bantams did draw level just seconds later, as ex-Saddler Hiwula was played through on goal.
The forward’s initial effort was blocked by the legs of Etheridge, only for the ball to ricochet fortuitously off Matt Preston, with Hiwula then hammering home a narrow angle.
The contest was now much more open and the Saddlers had chances to go back in front.
Simeon Jackson’s stinging strike was beated away by Doyle, who then tipped over McCarthy’s rasping drive.
And moments later, McCarthy’s goalbound header from Florent Cuvelier’s corner was cleared from virtually on the line.
Bradford had a few half-chances to snatch victory late on; a Hanson header was held by Etheridge, Marshall fired wide and McNulty’s half-volley from Cullen’s cross was kept out by the home stopper.
Full-time: Walsall 1-1 Bradford
Team: Etheridge, McCarthy, O’Connor, Preston, Laird, Chambers, Edwards, Osbourne, Cuvelier (Moussa 68’), Jackson (Makris 78’), Bakayoko (Oztumer 84’).
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Dobson, Ginnelly, Toner.
Attendance: 5,148 (968 Bradford supporters).