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Saturday, 27 October, 2001, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Bradford 4-3 Watford

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Hat-trick hero Eoin Jess took the heat off Bradford boss Jim Jefferies to leave Watford's Gianluca Vialli as the man under fire - but only after a heart-stopping finale.

Jefferies went into the game having been given a vote of confidence - of sorts - following clear-the-air talks with chairman Geoffrey Richmond on Thursday.

The Scot had apparently been promised he would not be sacked if City suffered a sixth successive defeat, and fifth in the First Division, against Vialli's side.

But Jefferies was acutely aware that with another home clash swiftly following on Tuesday, with Wimbledon the visitors, points were of the essence if he was to avoid becoming the latest to tumble in this season's sack race.

But Jefferies' players did him proud - for 75 minutes at least - at a time when he needed them to stand up and be counted, while for Vialli the pressure is starting to mount as his side crashed to a fifth away defeat in six league games.

Jess eased the pressure
Jess eased the pressure
For the Italian, it was a haunting return to Valley Parade, the ground where his then Chelsea side lost 2-0 to Bradford 13 months ago, a match which proved to be the beginning of the end to his Stamford Bridge reign as he was sacked shortly after.

But City came so close to throwing it all away as they led 3-0 and then 4-1, only to fall asleep in defence, and at the end were left hanging on for three vital points.

The early tonic Jefferies needed arrived in the sixth minute as a poor clearance from Paul Robinson allowed Gunnar Halle to intercept and curl in a far-post cross from the right wing.

Matthew Etherington, signed on a month's loan from Tottenham on Tuesday and on his full debut, rose to power an angled header beyond former Spurs team-mate Espen Baardsen.

An early turning point came in the 37th minute when Gareth Whalley cleared off Neil Cox's downward header off the line for just 60 seconds later City doubled their advantage against a Hornets team who had beaten them 4-1 at Vicarage Road 18 days ago in the third round of the Worthington Cup.

Halle, galloping down the right wing, was again the supplier, this time with a low, dissecting ball through the area for an arriving Jess to sidefoot home his sixth goal of the season from 15 yards.

His seventh followed just 90 seconds after the restart as Wayne Jacobs and Andy Tod set up the former Scotland international to stab the ball home from eight yards past an advancing Baardsen.

It prompted Vialli into a triple substitution, but even when Helguson rifled in a 12-yarder in the 63rd minute, it seemed nothing more than a consolation for within a minute Jess completed his hat-trick, although he knew little about an attempted clearing header from Robinson which bounced him off past the unfortunate Baardsen.

Valley Parade then broke into a unified chorus of `Jimmy Jefferies' Barmy Army' as the fans underlined their loyalty to the beleaguered boss, but the words almost choked in their throats as Watford staged a dramatic fightback.

Smith made it 4-2 in the 76th minute and then when David Wetherall hauled back one substitute James Panayi, the Watford striker completed his brace from the spot.

In the five minutes of injury-time Watford found themselves reduced to 10 men when right-back Patrick Blondeau was sent off for two bookable offences, both tackles on Etherington, ultimately preventing Vialli's side from capturing a dramatic equaliser.

Bradford: Walsh, Halle, Molenaar, Wetherall, Jacobs, Tod, McCall, Whalley, Etherington, Jess, Blake. Subs: Davison, Makel, Bower, Emanuel, Forrest.

Watford: Baardsen, Cox, Galli, Robinson, Blondeau, Issa, Fisken, Hughes, Glass, Smith, Helguson. Subs: Vega, Wooter, Chamberlain, Panayi, Norville.

Referee: S Mathieson (Stockport)

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