Bradford City 3
Atkinson 35, Wells 90 (pen), McHugh 120
Northampton Town 3
Demontagnac 43 (pen), Platt 90, Langmead 109
Bradford City win 4-2 on penalties
Tuesday 13 November, 2012
By Jason McKeown
The shield of cup invincibility remains in tact. Some day soon Bradford City are going to lose a cup match again, but on nights like this so much heart and belief can be taken which should stand us in great stead for the weeks and months ahead. Unbeaten in all cups, and memories to be treasured in how to maintain belief and keep going when the chips are down.
It looked as though City had thrown this one away. Having gone 2-1 up in the final minute of the 90, we just had three minutes of stoppage time to see out and the players could clock off on time and victorious. But then James Meredith slipped over and Clive Platt was free to smash home an equaliser and take it into extra time.
City struggled to get going again, and fell behind to Kelvin Langmead’s low finish during the second 15. Carl McHugh became the hero, as he headed home the Bantams’ own injury time equaliser. Back off the canvas. Never knowing when they’re beaten. Invincible.
And we all know what happens when it goes to penalties.
That this tussle stretched so far into the night had much to do with a poor refereeing decision from Mick Russell that should have enabled City to wrap things up before half time. A goal to the good after Will Atkinson netted a second in four games, substitute Adam Baker – brought on early after an unfortunate injury to Zavon Hines – was played through on goal only for his shirt to be repeatedly yanked back by Joe Widdowson.
Baker continued to attempt to run on, before one too many kicks from Widdowson saw him fall over inside the box. A penalty, a red card – Russell awarded neither. And when minutes later Northampton were correctly awarded a penalty converted by Ishmel Demontagnac, the sense of injustice was palpable. Had the referee applied the same rules to both sides, City would have had around 50 minutes to play with a man advantage.
As is so often the case, the equaliser changed a game that City were besting and then some. Alan Connell was chosen to partner James Hanson and delivered – for me – by some distance his best 45 minutes in a City shirt. His first touch, vision and awareness were mightily impressive, as too was his work rate. Atkinson and Hanson were also in fine form, and Scott Brown enjoyed a promising home debut where he used the ball intelligently and tackled effectively. Northampton were largely pinned in their own half.
“Get us playing again, Gary” was the instruction to Jones from Phil Parkinson as he was brought on midway through the second half. I tried sitting behind the dugouts tonight as I often have for cup games/friendlies over the years, and Parkinson’s measured patrolling of the touchline, saying little and trusting his players, is a vast change from the posing and non stop yelling of Peter Jackson (Stuart and Peter Taylor somewhere in-between).
Jones’ introduction was deemed necessary after an opening to the second half where City lost their way and Northampton got on top. There was plenty to admire about the visitors, who looked better than several recent sides at Valley Parade, but their physical approach and attempts to slow down the game did irk after a while. Jones did, indeed, get City playing again. And with Nahki Wells replacing the fading Connell (there’s that downside, again) the pressure grew.
Finally a handball was spotted and City were awarded a penalty. Wells showed great calmness to slot the ball home and that should have been that. Cue the late equaliser and the eventful extra time.
Wells’ spot kick will only add to his burgeoning reputation. Width of a Post has learned from a well-placed source that the Bermudian is apparently attracting serious interest from at least three Championship clubs and one League One outfit. The names were revealed to me but I’m withholding them for now, but it’s safe to say the three Championship clubs are in contention for promotion to the Premiership. City are said to have turned one concrete bid down, but it appears we face a serious battle to keep Nahki beyond January.
Wells missed City’s opening penalty shootout effort tonight. But after personally been fortunate to have witnessed all seven of our previous spot kick successes, I remained very confident. Sure enough Jon McLaughlin saved Northampton’s second, and then Ben Tozer kicked the third into the empty Bradford End. Jones, Atkinson, Stephen Darby and Ricky Ravenhill scored for City, and that was that.
So another night with some cost – Hines’ injury, Meredith going off with a knock during extra time, and yet another additiona 30 minutes for tired legs – but £18,000 prize money and a second round home tie with Brentford a worthwhile reward. Now back to the league and three winnable games. The shield of cup invincibility must be put back into the cupboard, but the confidence gained from tonight’s heroics can last long after these cup adventures finally come to an end.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, McHugh, Meredith, Hines (Baker 29), Brown (Gary Jones 63), Ravenhill, Connell (Wells 73), Hanson
Not used: Duke, Doyle, Bass, Swain
Categories: Match Reviews