The story of the 12/13 season

August

Pre-season optimism was boosted by a 4-0 friendly win over Guiseley but dented by a 3-0 loss to Bury and annual defeat to Bradford Park Avenue. No matter, when things kicked off for real the Bantams recorded an impressive 1-0 League Cup extra time over League One Notts County.

Width of a Post writers were busy building up the start of the League Two campaign, asking whether we could afford the team, assessing if Parkinson can deliver, predicting the tightest of League Two’s and wondering if this was the year we could finally escape its clutches. We also played pundit here, here and here.

The League Two campaign itself didn’t start well with a 3-1 loss to Gillingham, but a Tuesday night 1-0 success over newly promoted Fleetwood was followed by a sensational 5-1 thrashing of AFC Wimbledon where the two sides looked rather mismatched. The month ended with another League Cup success, this time over Championship Watford.

The only dampener to such a good start was worries about the club’s finances after the Valley Parade school deal fell through (later resurrected for next September).

September

It didn’t start off very well, September. A 4-0 thrashing to Rotherham was as bad as you can imagine, and a 1-1 draw at Accrington Stanley featured a superb Alan Connell strike but left some tactical worries. We needed to get going again, and a 3-0 home victory over a dismal Barnet side was just the tonic, followed three days later by an impressive 3-1 triumph over Morecambe – City’s fourth straight home win. A 2-0 success at Oxford lifted the Bantams to joint second, but the month ended with a 1-0 loss to promotion rivals Port Vale.  In the League Cup, City came from 2-0 down to beat Burton 3-2 after extra time in thrilling circumstances.

The praise for Parkinson and the players was plentiful. Will Atkinson was impressing. Kyel Reid was failing to convince all, but we said Let Kyel be Kyel

Elsewhere Width of a Post did a survey of where supporters expect us to finish this season, and City ambassador Omar Kahn jointly bought the Bulls.

October

The games were coming thick and fast for City, with so many Tuesday matches testing the relatively small squad. Kyel Reid got injured in a 0-0 draw at Rochdale that ruled him out for 10 weeks, and Gary Jones failed to play against his old club and did not return until the Burton away game at the end of the month.

Form stuttered. A 4-3 loss to Dagenham was poor, a 0-0 draw at Hartlepool in the JPT lifted spirits, but a 1-1 draw with York City made it five league games without a win. When City went 1-0 down to Cheltenham the week after it began to look worrying, but a gritty Nahki Wells-inspired comeback earned a 3-1 win and three days later away league win number two was recorded via a 1-0 success at Northampton. Cue that Burton game, which ended 1-0 to the Brewers and saw Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver suffer long-term injuries.

No time for gloom though. Next up was Premier League Wigan in the cup. Oh what a night, as City won 4-2 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes. Incredible celebrations at reaching the quarter finals, where we will face Arsenal.

A testing period for the squad. Nathan Doyle spoke to Width of a Post about his return to the club, James Meredith talked eloquently at a Skipton Bantams meeting and Craig Forsyth arrived on loan from Watford. Alan Connell was struggling to make an impact and James Hanson’s goal drought saw his critics come out in force.

All in all, we were happy with the first three months of the season.

November

It was another busy month for City, with worries about fatigue, as a result of the cup exploits (which continued with a 1-1 FA Cup 1st round draw at Northampton), emerging. Certainly a 0-0 draw at home to Chesterfield saw a weary Bantams side run out of ideas long before the final whistle. Better news came with a 2-0, Nahki Wells-inspired victory over a poor Aldershot side. The Bermudian was certainly flying.

The Northampton replay was another memorable evening, with a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes followed by yet another spot kick success. But the price of yet more extra time was a below par 1-0 loss at home to Exeter. City looked very tired.

To much relief, there followed a 1-0 win over Plymouth, though a dreadful injury to on loan defender John Egan overshadowed matters. Parkinson – who spoke bluntly of the need for extra funds – signed Tom Naylor, Blair Turgott and Curtis Good to boost numbers. The trio sat out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bristol Rovers, but the latter two contributed to a 1-1 draw with League One Brentford in the FA Cup.

Meanwhile on Width of a Post, we interviewed David Baldwin for a three part interview here, here and here, plus heard from Phil Parkinson. And we also talked Parkinson’s contract, goalkeepers and which was a better visit – Real Madrid or Bristol Rovers.

December

What a month December proved to be, with headlines literally generated all over the world following City’s incredible League Cup quarter final over Arsenal. Width of a Post devoted a great deal of pre and post-match coverage to this momentous evening.

In the days before the game we interviewed supporters from both sides, looked at what the occasion meant to Arsenal and recalled those halcyon Premier League days. Then came the match itself, where every single player excelled in front of a superb atmosphere. We were pleased with Sky’s coverage of the match, and tried to make sense of what it all meant for us supporters. Bring on the Villa!

It wasn’t the only semi final City reached in December, with a 2-0 away win over Port Vale placing the Bantams into the area semis of the JPT, where they would face Crewe in January. Unbeaten in all cups…but wait, a spanner in the works – the FA kicked us out of the FA Cup. Not (Curtis) good. Still the appeal was won, and Parkinson would play his reserves in the 2nd round replay at Brentford, resulting in a 4-2 defeat after extra time.

In the League things were going well too. A 1-0 win over Torquay, days before the Arsenal game, felt vital. After the Gunners game, a 2-2 draw was achieved at an in-form Southend (though City lost a 2-0 lead in the match). On Boxing Day the Bantams defeated Accrington 2-1, despite some dodgy tactics from the visitors, but then the month and the year ended on a sour note with a shock 4-2 home loss to Rochdale.

January

January was a month of contrasting highs and lows for Bradford City. The two legged League Cup semi finals with Aston Villa were both incredible affairs, and Width of a Post covered every kick closely.

Prior to the first leg, David Baldwin told us about the off-the-field plans, David Pendleton provided perspective of what it all meant, and Villa website My Old Man Said told us the Villa viewpoint. A magnificent 3-1 victory in the first leg put Bradford City 90 minutes away from Wembley – the players’ outstanding.

That lifted spirits after a difficult start to 2013 in the league. A 0-0 draw at Morecambe was drab, a 2-0 defeat at Barnet was dismal. It didn’t get any better after the Villa first leg either, with a 2-1 home loss to Oxford United and 4-1 thumping at Crewe in the JPT Quarter Final. What was more important, the league or the League Cup?

New signings arrived in the shape of Andy Gray, Ryan Dickson and Michael Nelson, while Ritchie Jones and Ross Hannah exited the club. We also sung the praises of semi final goal hero Rory McArdle plus in-form winger Zavon Hines.

Attention quickly returned to the second leg of the League Cup, at Villa Park. Can we do this? What does it mean for supporters old and young? Can we lay to rest old ghosts? Oh, and what do these guys think now?

City pulled it off, losing 2-1 on the night but going through 4-3 on aggregate. Another great effort by the players, which had us supporters in dreamland (and the Guardian’s David Conn and BBC’s Ian Dennis singing Width of a Post’s praises). What a triumph, even though some of us nearly missed it. The media were full of it.

Cue debates about Wembley matters, and a February date to look forward to.

February

A truly historic month, the like of which we Bradford City fans will probably never see again in our lifetimes. City were going to Wembley, and it seemed as though everything about the month revolved around that epic occasion.

League form undoubtedly continued to suffer. A 2-2 draw at Fleetwood Town wasn’t a terrible result; but with the winless run stretching on, the late home equaliser felt like two important points dropped. Then league leaders Gillingham completed a Bantams league double with an ugly 1-0 win at Valley Parade. There was at least the boost of a very impressive 3-0 win at Wycombe, but then a dreadfully disappointing 2-1 loss at bottom club Wimbledon meant the week-long build up to Wembley began on a bum note.

But still, Cup Final week! Width of a Post went to town, reflecting on the 32,000 support, speaking to Jamie Lawrence, hearing from James Hanson’s dad, looking back at the last visit to Wembley in 96, talking 1911, sharing the Swansea perspective, looking at Phil Parkinson’s crowning moment, reflecting on Bradford City’s identity, recalling 65 years of supporting the club, previewing the final battle and hearing from a 1911 winner’s great, great nephew. Phew.

The game was a bit of a let down in truth, with the players not quite performing. We enjoyed the Wembley experience and of seeing things we’ll never see. We took a trip to the psychiatrist’s couch, cheated on the Mrs but had a nice message from our work colleagues when we eventually came back.

The month ended with an inauspicious homecoming, following a 1-1 draw against Dagenham. Back to concentrating on the league.

Looking longer-term, Width of a Post spoke to Mark Ellis about the club’s RIASA tie-up.

March

City’s play hopes were only going to be realised with a March full of victories, but unfortunately the month featured just two victories, four draws and one defeat. The top seven began to look a tall order, and the focus increasingly turned to Phil Parkinson’s future and that of his players.

March began with an impressive 2-0 victory in the Yorkshire derby against York City at Bootham Crescent. Next, we faced second place Port Vale away and dominated the second half, but could not find a goal, drawing 0-0. A home game with struggling Aldershot needed to result in three points, but in the end a stoppage time penalty from Alan Connell preserved a point.

Last chance came in Devon, with back-to-back games at Plymouth and Exeter. Alas, another draw, at Home Park, was less than ideal, then a 4-1 loss to Exeter seemed to firmly shut the door on the top seven – confirming the death of the season. A 1-0 victory over Wycombe revived faint hopes, but last, last chance to begin a late run saw City 2-0 down to Southend after 11 minutes on Good Friday, before good management led to a 2-2 draw. Still not really enough, with City ending the month eight points off the play offs with seven to play.

Elsewhere, Width of a Post looked up close at Garry Thompson, Andy Gray, Nathan Doyle and Michael Nelson.

A frustrating month on the pitch, but the memories of Wembley continued to stir and ensured that many of us could forgive recent failings, as we questioned what mattered more. The cup run had seemingly cost us and made some upset, but even if we no longer believed the top seven was possible we continued to support the team  as a season to remember came towards its conclusion.

April

Even by the high standards set by Bradford City this season, April was an incredible month. From play off hopes seemingly over with seven games to go, a top seven finish was achieved with a match to spare. A remarkable turnaround.

April Fools Day was pivotal. A 3-1 win at strugglers Torquay United, coupled with all promotion rivals losing, put City firmly back in it. A 1-0 victory over automatic promotion hopefuls Northampton closed the gap some more – once again on an afternoon where other results went the Bantams’ way – and a Tuesday night 4-1 thumping over Bristol Rovers moved City to seventh. Now they just needed to stay there. Or – better still – the top three was suddenly a target

Chesterfield should have been defeated 2-1, but slack defending in the last minute led to a late home side equaliser in a game marred by crowd problems. Brief automatic promotion were hopes all but over, and a 2-0 loss to Rotherham at a packed out Valley Parade left City sweating on finishing in the play offs. But then a 1-0 victory over Burton Albion confirmed their place. The final game saw a pressure-free 0-0 draw at Cheltenham, notable only for an Andrew Davies sending off.

He had been playing out of his skin for City, as was Gary Jones, Ricky Ravenhill and Nahki Wells; they and others helping City to an extended end to the season that sparked jubilation. The only major issue from a superb month was the ongoing uncertainty over Phil Parkinson’s future.

May

For once, when just about everyone else’s season was over, City were still going. The two-legged play off semi final with Burton Albion was a hugely exciting occasion for Bantams fans. Alas, the first leg was a dreadful anti-climax as a Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma-inspired Burton ran out 3-2 winners at Valley Parade. Garry Thompson’s late consolation would prove crucial, but it hadn’t been a great performance.

After many fans queued overnight for away leg tickets, a sell out City support rocked up at Burton three days later believing it was not over. The players were magnificent, and came roaring back to win 3-1 on the day and go through 5-4 on aggregate. A second Wembley appearance of the season was booked following a rollercoaster few days, cue the celebrations from fans at the ground and watching on TV.

Before focusing on the play off final, everyone took time out to remember the anniversary of the Valley Parade Fire Disaster.

Going back to Wembley offered City the chance to put right the Swansea demons, an opportunity which looked highly unlikely until that stunning run-in. Opponents Northampton themselves had good Wembley memories and were looking forward to it – even if some had divided family loyalties. We were desperate for a first promotion in 14 years that would seal a Hollywood ending to the season. Especially important after 12 years of epic misery one afternoon could change everything.

City did it. A 3-0 win – thanks to three first half goals – was present perfect. The players excelling and leaving us supporters immensely proud. What a job Phil Parkinson had done, and a few days later he eventually signed a new contract to give us much-needed stability. We could now look forward to League One.

2012/13 end of season review

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