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Bradford City 2, Southend United 0
IT was anything but a Good Friday for Southend United at Bradford City this afternoon as they crashed to a depressing 2-0 defeat and ended the game with just eight men.
Blues had defender Sean Clohessy and substitute striker Elliot Benyon both sent off in the second half.
And, just six minutes from time, skipper Chris Barker limped off injured after all three substitutes had already been made.
That capped a miserable afternoon for Paul Sturrock's side who are now facing a real uphill struggle to secure automatic promotion.
They were second best from the start against their harder working hosts who threatened as early as the seventh minute when midfielder Ritchie Jones unleashed a well struck 25 yard shot at Blues goalkeeper Cameron Belford.
Southend hit back with Ryan Hall and Bilel Mohsni both firing well wide from long range.
However, goalscoring opportunities and any real excitement remained at a premium in the opening exchanges until Nahki Wells turned well on the edge of the penalty area and forced Belford in to a good save with a swerving 20 yard shot.
Blues immediately replied with a fine move which resulted in Lee Hills delivering a low, left wing cross in to the path of Freddy Eastwood - only for the Southend striker to send his left footed shot over the crossbar from 14 yards.
But, having survived the slight scare, Bradford responded by taking the lead in the 38th minute.
The goal came when a deep free-kick from Craig Fagan was inadvertently deflected in to the path of Michael Flynn on the right wing by the head of Hills.
Flynn immediately delivered an excellent cross which picked out an unmarked James Hanson just six yards from the goal and the forward made no mistake with an assured header.
Bradford came close to doubling their lead on the stroke of half-time with Anthony Grant and Clohessy both doing well to block shots from Wells and Flynn in a goalmouth scramble before Hanson headed a left wing corner from Fagan just wide of the right post.
Blues made an enforced change during the interval with Mark Phillips replacing the unwell Hills in a switch which saw Luke Prosser revert to left-back.
But it was Bradford who stayed on top, with Fagan shooting over from the edge of the penalty area following a loose piece of play from Ryan Hall.
The Bantams did not have long to wait for a second goal though and doubled their lead in the 54th minute, with Fagan converting from the penalty spot.
The penalty was given after a poor pass from Bilel Mohnsi was collected by Flynn and he rolled the ball through to Wells who was brought down inside the area by Clohessy before he could shoot.
Referee Eddie Ilderton immediately pointed to the spot and brandished a red card to Clohessy before Fagan's resulting penalty was pushed in to the top left hand corner of the net by Belford.
Blues reshuffled with Grant reverting to right back in place of Clohessy and, in the 59th minute, boss Sturrock made a double change as Benyon and Neil Harris came on in place of Kane Ferdinand and Eastwood. But, nine minutes later, things got even worse for Southend, when Benyon was shown a straight red card for an off the ball incident which saw him accused of kicking out at Rob Kozluk. Bradford eased off the gas and, with Barker limping off injured in the 84th minute to leave Blues with just eight men, the Bantams easily ended a run of six games without a win to boost their survival hopes.