It has been some journey to reach this point. Width of a Post writers recall their memories of how Bradford City have made it through five rounds of the League Cup to achieve a spot in the semi finals.
Round 1 – Notts County 0 City 1
@Meadow Lane on Saturday 11 August, 2012
By Jason McKeown
As is the law for the first game of the campaign, it was a lovely warm summer’s day and a mini-tour around the nearby Nottingham boozers put myself and friend Steve in the mood for another Bradford City season. Away to a very good League One side in the cup, in truth we didn’t expect much.
Yet backed by a near 900-strong City following (which included Jamie Lawrence, who was sat some 10 rows in front of us), the players did us proud with an accomplished away performance that deserved a place in round two. The standout memories for me included it being the first time we saw Will Atkinson impress in a City shirt. Will, who had been signed during the summer after an underwhelming loan spell the year before, played central midfield alongside the superb Gary Jones. He displayed commendable work-rate and produced a repertoire of flicks and clever passing that we’ve now come to expect from him. I also remember Yoann Arquinn missing an open goal for County in the last minute of normal time. It was up there with Ronny Rosenthal.
The goal itself was also special, coming five minutes into the first period of extra time. Nahki Wells linked up well with Kyel Reid, before the ball was played back for James Hanson to smash home from the edge of the penalty area. It was a quality finish by James, and it was a quality team display from Phil Parkinson’s new-look side. The season had begun in the best possible fashion, raising the bar to a level that has largely been maintained since.
Round 2 – Watford 1 City 2
@Vicarage Road on Tuesday 28 August, 2012
By Tom Warden
There aren’t many places further from Bradfordians to go on a weekday evening than Hertfordshire, and the early rounds of a cup are never very enticing fare for Bantams fans as, lets face it, we normally aren’t very good in them.
However, this was personally a chance to get back into following my team. I was advised that the FA Cup tie there last year was a good day out and it gave me a chance to visit a ground that I hadn’t seen before, so why not? The second string sides put out by both Parkinson and Gianfranco Zola gave this a feel of a match which was more distraction than priority, but that did not mean the travelling fans who did make the journey saw a drab game, far from it.
Watford dominated proceedings, targeting debutant left-back Carl McHugh with diagonal balls which regularly caught him out, leading to him getting a severe rollicking from Rory McArdle. It’s amazing how Mchugh has stepped up to become an important player this season as, on this performance, I didn’t think he would get back into the side again! City created a few chances but as time wore on, it looked like the bookies would be right again.
Sure enough, Watford took the lead when Ikechi Anya latched onto a loose ball and sent a rocket past Jon McLaughlin into the top corner with 20 minutes to go. Oh well, we kind of expected to lose here, never mind. But then James Hanson and Kyel Reid came on, The physicality and trickery caused instant problems, and all of a sudden Reid was on hand to smash home after a bit of penalty box pinball, we started looking at watches, last train home or extra time? Luckily we didn’t have to make that choice; in the dying seconds Nathan Doyle hooked a free kick back into the area and the ball fell invitingly for Garry Thompson to drive home.
Watford deflated, we celebrated a bit of a scalp, a very productive evening, little did we know that there were much bigger scalps to come.
Round 3 – City 3 Burton 2 (AET)
@Valley Parade on Tuesday 25 September, 2012
By Gareth Walker
It was a last minute decision for me to attend this game, but boy am I glad I did!
The groans from all City fans would have been audible down in Burton when we drew them rather than one of the “Big Boys” for our third round clash. It wasn’t the draw we had hoped for after our massive performance down at Watford. To be fair it probably wasn’t the draw that Burton wanted either.
What both sets of supporters got however was one of the games of the season, particular from a City side who completely dominated despite going two goals down. Billy Kee and Aaron Webster had The Brewers two up totally against the run of play after just half an hour. City had been on top on a wet and windy night where the slippy pitch was proving troublesome for both goalkeepers.
We hadn’t had the luck of the bounce when Stuart Tomlinson had spilled numerous early shots, but Matt Duke had been beaten twice from three clear Burton chances. Webster’s headed goal coming from the third of these when he had been left unmarked for the second time at a corner in the space of about five minutes.
City had fielded a team with Alan Connell and Garry Thompson upfront amidst a number of players who needed game time. However, we were failing to turn our dominance of possession into goals. Cue the introduction of the Big Guns: Nahki Wells, Kyel Reid and James Hanson, to completely turn the game on its head. Having been introduced after an hour’s play, they turned our domination into clear cut chances, but it took until 83rd minute for us to pull one back when Wells scored a stunning volley from an angle.
Up until that point it looked as though it was just going to be one of those games as Burton threw their bodies on the line to block shot after shot. However, after the first goal City piled forward and got a deserved equaliser again through Wells after a bit of a scrappy corner move.
In extra time, there was only going to be one winner as Burton heads dropped and The Bantams had their tails up. Stephen Darby scored an absolute screamer to save us from penalties and we were the League Two side that went on to have another chance of getting a lucrative draw in Round Four.
Round 4 – Wigan 0 City 0 (City won 4-2 on pens)
@DW Stadium on Tuesday 30 October, 2012
By Mark Danylczuk
A League Two side beating a Premier League team? You’d think it would be enough to make the first story on Sky Sports News, but a certain 12 goal thriller between Reading and Arsenal on the same evening made sure this was not the case.
However, we knew it was memorable. City last knocked out a Premier League club from the League Cup in September 1995, when we beat Nottingham Forest over two legs in the second round. But this time a new generation of City fans had witnessed their own piece of magic.
It wasn’t the glamour tie that we had all hoped for; but on the other hand, it was a Premier League team away from home and we knew that with a passionate following (possibly outnumbering the home fans), that we could roar the boys on to victory.
The journey for me started on a cold and rainy Tuesday morning at Victoria Station in London catching the train up to Manchester. Following a brief stop at the excellent National Football Museum (and a chance meeting with ex-City player Allan Gilliver), it was off to the DW Stadium. The rain didn’t let up in Wigan, but the sense of anticipation and the mass away following kept our spirits up.
The game itself was a very one-sided spectacle; virtually a game of attack and defend. City defended resolutely, Duke kept us in the game with some fantastic saves and Wigan missed a fair few chances. After 120 minutes of fingernail-biting tension, it was down to penalties with the City faithful confident of securing a famous upset and so it came; the misses of Shaun Moloney and then Jordi Gomez sending the City camp into raptures and securing a slot in the quarter finals.
On returning home and after catching up on the bizarre and incredible 7-5 at the Madejski, it was time to recap on City’s heroics on TV and the memories were enough to keep me entertained on the return coach journey to London the following morning. That evening it was off to the pub to see the draw for the semi’s, and finally justice had arrived with the glamour tie of Arsenal and the potential of a full City ground and some coveted TV money.
Taking two days annual leave to watch a City match? Some people would think it crazy, but I, along with the 5,000 City fans, had the last laugh with the memorable stories to treasure from this evening.
Round 5 – City 1 Arsenal 1 (City win 3-2 on pens)
@Valley Parade on Tuesday 11 December, 2012
By Alex Scott
I wrote after the fact that it was the greatest feeling I’d ever had watching football, a statement I stand by. Perhaps the strangest part of the feeling was how it all fit the plan in my head. Everything happened the way it was supposed to, dramatically out of character for the team, and my own brand of perpetual ill-prepared chaos.
I ducked out of work at half three (shout out to FlexiTime) and scrambled up to King’s Cross for my train north. No delays, no dramas, I was in the ground for half seven.
My outward logic that ‘we probably won’t win, but if we did, and I missed it, I just couldn’t bear it’ was actually an act of self-delusion, in that I was far more confident than I let on. I could only see the game playing out in one of two ways, either the way we witnessed, or a 4-1 reverse. and I was actually confident! But I was scared. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. Even on the train up, rolling out past the Emirates, being eyed suspiciously by a gaggle of red-and-white clad fans down the carriage (collective noun for drunk football fans?), I told them to watch for #21, but that ‘you’ll win comfortably’. I would never have characterised myself as superstitious before then, but my unwillingness to jinx anything overpowered any considered rationality I wish to emit.
Most nights before an early train, I spend my time staring at my watch mentally calculating the potential sleep remaining. That night it never even crossed my mind until I went to bed and set my alarm, noticing it was in 3 hours and 21 minutes time.
I don’t really remember much from the game, I remember it through the eyes of the Sky cameras, through Bill Leslie’s excitable commentary, and Peter Beagrie’s ever-increasing anxiety.
Unsurprisingly, the next day was a coffee-fuelled, uncommunicative haze. But walking into that Central London office at ten past nine, past my Arsenal-supporting peers, with one hand wrapped around my City scarf and the other around a large Americano is a moment I won’t soon forget.