20-11 – The greatest Bradford City matches of the last 50 years (as voted by Bradford City supporters of 2012)

20: West Ham 5 Bradford City 4 (12th February 2000)

Premier League

A defeat, but what a game! City’s bid for top flight survival was beginning to look strong after back-to-back home wins over Watford and Arsenal, and so when we went 4-2 up at Upton Park you could almost begin to relax. The Hammers and Bantams traded a couple of goals during the first half, before Jamie Lawrence scored two quick-fire goals after the interval to place his side in the driving seat. A sulking Paulo Di Canio pleaded to be subbed, and Dean Saunders broke through and hit the post, for what would have been 5-2.

Alas, it was the turning point. West Ham won a spot kick that prompted a farcical argument between Di Canio and Frank Lampard, which the Italian won and scored. Joe Cole made it 4-4, and then deep in stoppage time Lampard beat Aidan Davison from distance. Heartbreak, but at least we had a happy ending to that season.

Jamie Lawrence: “We thought we’d beaten them, and I was thinking ‘great game to play in’. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t come out of the game on the right side of the scoring. I remember there was Paulo Di Canio sitting on the half way line at one stage, pleading with Harry Redknapp to take him off, because he’d had a few penalty appeals turned down, wrongly probably. I wish they had have taken him off, because then we would have won that game!”

19: City 2 Spurs 2 (3rd January 1970)

By Blues Boy John

Burnley! I mean Burnley, from L**cashire! It’s FA Cup Final day 1962 and this particular 9 year old Riddlesden youngster is sat watching the match at a neighbours (we didn’t have a TV at home). All around are rooting for The Clarets to prevail against Spurs, apart from me.

Of course, these fair weather glory seeking supporters had been lured by the ‘big club’ across the border. Firmly ensconced in the top tier of the Football League, Champions in 1960 and European Cup quarter finalists in 1961, the Clarets were handily placed (22 miles away) to seduce young football mad minds – but not me! We’d just been learning at school how the wicked Lancastrians made war against us good folk in the 15th century – they even controlled Skipton, for God’s sake, the gateway to the YORKSHIRE Dales – so I wasn’t going to support them, was I. As far as I was concerned everyone should support their local Club, come what may and I’d been secretly clipping City reports and photos from the Sporting Pink and sticking them in my scrap book for some time.

Sadly, though, as the years progressed, because my dad wasn’t a sporty type and wouldn’t take me to matches I’d only visited Valley Parade sporadically when, as a 15 year old, I arrived at our own somewhat tumbledown, soot encrusted (as it was then) footballing Mecca alone to see City take on Spurs in this exciting FA Cup 3rd Round encounter.

It was a cold day with patches of ice and a little snow on the pitch, but the Kop was absolutely packed which, together with the burning excitement, kept everyone at fever pitch. Spurs went straight on the attack and within 18 seconds the slippery nature of the pitch contributed to Tommy Hallett slicing a clearance to Jimmy Greaves who, with only Pat Liney to beat, hit the post. The relief was only momentary as on the next attack Greaves scored, latching on to a Gilzean backheader from a throw in and scoring from all of three yards. Another poor clearance, this time from Colin Cooper on 11 minutes, lead to Roger Morgan heading home from just outside the six yard box.

The City faithful were stunned and, if I’m honest, expected an avalanche of goals, but we got behind our team in time honoured fashion and with 23,000 (official attendance, but there was more) roaring them on began to stamp their authority on the match. Bobby Ham was giving Mike England and his fellow defenders a torrid time as he appeared to be everywhere in attack; John Hall and Mike Stowell got a grip on wide right midfield, but it was fellow midfielder John Middleton who reduced the arrears on 25 minutes. Norman Corner switched the ball to Ham who neatly zipped past Cyril Knowles to square across the goalmouth. Middleton caused chaos sufficient to unsettle England who put the ball in his own net.

After 22 minutes we were all blinking our eyes in astonishment. It seemed like the whole world must have been able to hear the roar as City levelled. Midfield general Stowell found Ham who returned the compliment for Stowell to slam a fierce rising shot into the net. Ecstasy reigned supreme! The second half saw City take hold of the match with Middleton and Bruce Bannister foraging down the left whilst Hall and Stowell kept up the momentum on the right. Indeed the Paraders (not Bantams in those days) almost won it on 77 minutes when Hall hammered the ball towards goal, beating Pat Jennings, before Knowles appeared from nowhere to head off the line.

And so it was that lowly City earned a replay against their illustrious visitors. And my life-long passion for the closest football team to home really took hold and has never let go.

18: QPR 1 City 3 (24th April 1999)

Division One

A true illustration of the twists and turns of football. City travelled to QPR with three games to go in the promotion run-in, very much beginning to looks as though we would have to settle for a place in the play offs rather than the 2nd automatic promotion spot Ipswich now occupied. On the same afternoon they were at home to Crewe – where they looked dead-certs to claim all three points.

Goals from Peter Beagrie and Ashley Westwood put City in the driving seat at Loftus Road, and curiously there was no goals news at Ipswich. Then it came through – Crewe had scored! We could hardly believe it, but we were heading back to 2nd. Ipswich did equalise and Crewe went down to 10 men, and it seemed the best we could hope for was the Railwaymen to hold on for a point. Besides, QPR had pulled one back and we had our own victory to see out.

More news from Portman Road – Crewe have scored again! And barely a minute later, Gordon Watson dribbled past five players and fired City into an unassailable 3-1 lead. Cue wild celebrations, as the final whistles at both grounds confirmed City were within touching distance of promotion to the Premier League.

Chris Gardner: “Away matches always seem to stand out for me, probably because the unusual surroundings make them more memorable over the week in week out routine of VP. City won, just, in front of another big away following, but I remember the nerves once again being tested, as we waited en masse inside the ground listening to the delayed Ipswich game finish, they lost, eventually, at home to Crewe. We started to really believe.”

Chris Jowitt: “A fantastic all round performance, I think it was the next to last away game. News came through towards the end that Ipswich had lost at home to Crewe and that got one of the biggest cheers of the day from the City fans.”

17: Hull City 2 City 3 (4th May 1996)

Division Two

Promotion looked so unlikely for the majority of 1995/96, until a late flurry of form in March turned Chris Kamara’s Bantams from mid-table mediocrity to play off contenders. All they had to do was beat already relegated Hull in the last game to claim the final top six spot. The fixture was filled with controversy long before matchday, as Hull’s Board upset their own fans by giving City fans the home end for this game. Cue a match littered by long stoppages as Tigers fans repeatedly invaded the pitch, disrupting the game for City.

Chesterfield – City’s play off rivals – were winning 4-0 in their final match, meaning only three points would do for City. Twice they fell behind, but goals from Mark Stallard, Carl Shutt and Lee Duxbury earned the all important win, setting up a play off semi final with Blackpool.

Robert Flyde: “Against all odds we reached the play offs. 6,500 City fans taking over the home end was a recipe for disaster and the trouble inside and outside the ground reflected that!”

16: City 3 QPR 0 (4th May 1997)

Division One

Over a period of five seasons, City went into the final game of the campaign needing to win on four occasions. Remarkably they pulled it off every time, with this relegation-avoiding victory over QPR in 1997 the perfect example of focus and composure.

City needed to match Grimsby’s result, which basically meant defeating a mid-table and disinterested QPR side in front of the Sky cameras. Nigel Pepper, a superb late season signing from York, headed home Tommy Wright’s free kick to calm nerves. And just before half time, a similarly positioned Wright set piece flew straight into the net. It was game over early in the second, thanks to Pepper’s incredibly powerful free kick that somehow didn’t break the net at the Kop end. Party time, as City preserved their place in Division One.

Ben Hoole: “Fantastic atmosphere, result, performance and pitch invasion. Was a brilliant day, really memorable – I was sat in the main stand at the back and folk had radios listening to the Grimsby- Southend game. Nigel Pepper scored that blinding free kick too. Brilliant!”

Rob Hunt: “The culmination of a quite unbelievable run which kept us in Division One.  Memorable for Nigel Pepper nearly breaking the net with a free-kick; but, more than that, the amazing atmosphere that was generated inside VP that day.

15: City 2 Chelsea 0 (22nd August 2000)

Premier League

Was this the peak of post-World War 1 Bradford City? An expensively assembled side for one night only produced a level of performance beyond our wildest dreams, to brush aside a heavily fancied Chelsea side with real style and vigour. The names in the City team: Clarke, Petrescu, Wetherall, O’Brien, Nolan, Hopkin, Atherton and McCall. Sharpe – for once playing out of his skin, and setting up the first goal for Windass. And Carbone, making a stunning full debut that was capped off with a superb second half strike. We were brilliant, if only for one night.

Chris Lofthouse: “We absolutely mullered Chelsea, got Vialli the sack, looked like we’d be pushing for the top half etc. But alas it wasn’t to be and the rest is history.”

Matthew Briggs: “Best ever display for a City team and watched Carbone nutmeg Desailly.”

Paul Slimming: “The false dawn 2-0 at home to Chelsea in the Premiership 2nd season – Windass and Carbone scored, and we looked like world beaters.”

Chris Jowitt: “I remember thinking that City had finally arrived as a Prem team that night. A great display. I got back to my car to find window smashed and radio pinched – and City have been going downhill ever since.”

14: Darlington 1 City 3 (9th May 1969)

Division Four

The equation for both Darlington and City, going into this final match of the season, was simple: win and they would be promoted from Division Four, lose and they miss out. Darlington took the lead, the game was delayed for 10 minutes as a wall collapsed in the away end, and then Bobby Ham, Bruce Bannister and an own goal gave City the priceless victory – a first promotion for 40 years.

13: City 2 Burnley 2 (21 September 2002)

Division One

Mike Dean. Say those two words to most City fans, and they will think not of the accomplished Premier League referee of today, but shudder at the thought of his wretched display at Valley Parade in September 2002, that should have meant bitter rivals Burnley defeated us.

City were leading 1-0 through Andy Gray, when Dean sent off Mark Bower for a challenge on Dimi Papadopoulos after the Greek had clearly elbowed the home defender. Then early in the second half, Dean sent Danny Cadamarteri for an early bath after mistakenly believing he had struck out at Paul Cook. It was actually the ball that had hit the Burnley player. Valley Parade was fuming, 9-men City soon went from 1-0 up to 2-1 down. It was surely game over.

Then deep in stoppage time, Burnley’s aim of seeing out the game backfired as Michael Proctor had the chance to fire home a dramatic equaliser. Cue an outpouring of jubilation from a still fired up crowd. This is what makes football so great.

Chris Lofthouse: “Dirty, horrible Burnley. The odious Mike Dean. The cheating Papadopoulos. Two red cards. 9 men. Michael Proctor’s 90th minute equaliser. Pandemonium!”

David White: “After feeling a huge sense of injustice at being down to 9 men, Michael Proctor’s last minute equaliser was another one of those unbridled joy moments.”

12: Tranmere 4 City 5 (16th October 2004)

League One

Another match to feature late drama, as David Wetherall netted a stoppage time winner in front of the City away end – but so much more had happened before, to make it an unforgettable day. City never went behind, but couldn’t hold onto a lead all afternoon as Tranmere kept fighting back. Steven Schumacher put City ahead, then a Nicky Summerbee thunderbolt free kick made it 2-1. Each time City were pegged back, but after Dean Windass made it 3-2 and Ben Muirhead’s superb dribble and curling shot made it 4-2, it was surely game over. Tranmere wouldn’t lie down, and got back to 4-4 with three minutes to. But Wetherall had the final say.

Chris Lofthouse: “What a rollercoaster of a game! The much maligned Ben Muirhead put us 4-2 up with about 10 minutes to go with an absolute screamer. Cue the Tranmere fans pouring out of the exits only for them to pull one back 30 seconds later and them all to flood back in again and then for them to equalise 5 minutes later. 4-4 and surely two points thrown away!! But no, Wetherall pops up with a trademark header. For pure thrills and spills that game will never be beaten.”

11: City 5 Brentford 4 (23rd March 1985)

Division Three

By Keith Bruce

This was Trevor Cherry’s City team of the invincibles. We topped the third division in November 1984 and never left the summit and of course were crowned champions at the end of the 84/85 season, sadly a season overshadowed by events that followed in May.

This was a season when City just beat all before them, with a young Stuart McCall, Peter Jackson, John Hendrie and Bobby Campbell at centre forward we were incredible and would go to places like Burnley, Reading and be 2-0 up within 10 minutes. However the home game with Brentford was a little different.

Within 30 minutes we were 0-3 down and the fans were stunned. Then our fighting spirit came to the fore and by half time it was 2-3. We were expecting an easy 2nd half especially when we made it 3-3 but then went 3-4 down. Then in a desperate last 15 minutes we turned it round and won 5-4.

Rob Hunt: “City 3-0 down after about 20 minutes come back to win.  John Hawley scores the winner with a few minutes shooting home from about 4 yards out.  Memorable for being a great game and one of the few times ever when I haven’t felt like all was lost when we were 3-0 down.  Also my sister’s first ever game at VP – I had to persuade her it wasn’t always as exciting.”

Categories: Top 30 matches (survey 2012)

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