A sensational free-kick from Ben McKenna gave Bradford (Park Avenue) an opening day victory over Brackley Town.
Kevin Wilkin’s side knocked Bradford out of the play-offs last season, but McKenna’s sublime strike ensured that the West Yorkshire side emerged victorious this time.
The hosts set the pace early on, and recent loan recruit Jake Beesley forced Danny Lewis to beat away a powerful effort in the opening five minutes after he had dispossessed Luke Graham.
Nicky Wroe then stung the palms of Lewis with a thunderous strike from the right, and Graham was forced to blast clear after the effort was parried.
Mark Bower will have been pleased with the slick nature of Bradford’s passing in the early exchanges, and his side believed they should have had a penalty when Beesley was seemingly shoved in the back by Gareth Dean.
Brackley showed glimpses of their ability to cause problems going forward in the first-half and Bradford debutant Conor Branson had to make an excellent sliding challenge to thwart Matt Lowe, who had accelerated away from Wroe.
Saints stopper Lewis then had to be alert to tip Chris Dawson’s close-range effort over the crossbar as pressure began to mount on the hosts.
Opportunities continued to fall to the hosts as Brackley could only clear a corner as far as the edge of the 18-yard box, where Danny Lowe was waiting to drill towards goal. His effort, however, flew narrowly wide.
The tempo of the game slowed as the interval approached, but Ben McKenna produced a moment of inspiration on the stroke of half-time to edge Bradford ahead. Beesley was bundled over by Graham on the edge of the box, and McKenna stepped up to strike past a helpless Lewis.
The action wasn’t as enthralling after the break, and chances were few and far between. Lee Ndlovu headed wide after meeting Lowe’s cross and that was as close as Brackley got to troubling Steven Drench in the early stages of the second-half.
Jamie Spencer, a replacement for the ill Dawson, slipped through to Ryan Toulson who fired wide under pressure from Glenn Walker.
In the final twenty minutes, Brackley pressed forward more frequently and began to pile bodies forward in search of the elusive equaliser. Substitute Luke Fairlamb demonstrated impressive trickery on the left flank to evade the challenge of Toulson but his cross was steered away from danger by Luca Havern.
Drench then spilled a Walker delivery but Havern was once again on-hand to blast clear before Ndlovu could capitalise on the goalkeeper’s error.
Daniel Nti saw a strike from around 15-yards out blocked superbly by Shane Killock, before Ndlovu blazed over the follow-up.
Three minutes into stoppage time, a Shane Byrne delivery found Connor Franklin, but his header was blocked by his own teammate, Lee Ndlovu.
Bradford held on and celebrated a thoroughly-deserved victory on the opening day of the 2018/19 campaign.
FULL-TIME: Bradford (Park Avenue) 1-0 Brackley Town
Bradford (Park Avenue): Drench, Toulson, Lowe, Wroe (Boshell 90′), Killock (c), Havern, McKenna, Branson, Beesley, Dawson (Spencer 50’), Clee (Johnson 72’).
Unused substitutes: Ross, Nowakowski.
Brackley Town: Lewis, Lowe, Franklin, Byrne, Graham (Fairlamb 63’), Dean (c), Walker, Armson, Smith (Nti 66’), Ndlovu, Murombedzi (Myles 76’).
Unused substitutes: Walker, Hall.
Referee: Aaron Williamson