More glory beckons for Bradford City, as they return to Wembley

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Match review: Fleetwood Town 0 Bradford City 0

By Jason McKeown

Whatever will be will be. Bradford City are going to Wembley. They completed the job here, saw out the first leg advantage, and can look forward to a play off final date with Millwall at the national stadium. 90 minutes away from Championship football.

It was a stinker of a match, but who cares? With Rory McArdle’s priceless first leg advantage to hold onto, the onus was on Fleetwood to turn this into a contest. The home side were tentative, reserved and defensive. They failed to create a single clear cut chance during the match. In fact, the closest Colin Doyle has come to conceding over both legs was from his own mistake 20 minutes into the first tie. At Highbury, he enjoyed a surprisingly easy evening.

Stuart McCall lined up his charges in a 5-3-2 formation which nullified the contest. Romain Vincelot back in defence. Billy Clarke dropping into midfield behind a front two of Charlie Wyke and Mark Marshall. It was safety first. Fleetwood were denied time and space to attack. The tempo was pedestrian at times, but that completely suited the Bantams.

Indeed they shaded the contest at both ends. Charlie Wyke had the best chance of the first half, when he should have scored from a header but hit the post. In the final 20 minutes the visitors were on the front foot and looked more likely to snatch a winner. Mark Marshall forced a decent save. Josh Cullen wasted two openings.

It was curious that a Fleetwood storm never emerged. Uwe Rosler has played the underdog card to death over both legs, but his counter attack approach wasn’t suited to chasing the contest. They had to be brave but were feeble. They will look back on the season with pride but will rue the fact they never made the most of this moment. When they won a corner late on but neglected to throw the keeper forwards, the sense of missed opportunity was evident. Rosler will be off in the summer, if rumours are to be believed. The Fleetwood momentum may stall.

Not that City will care. To a man they were short of their best but the commitment was never in doubt. The back five was solid with McArdle the pick of the bunch. Timothee Dieng’s second half introduction made City more solid. Clarke once again showed he wasn’t much of a central midfielder. Wyke ran himself into the ground and looked dead on his feet. But he continued to chase lost causes.

With the scoreline so tight, the final five minutes were nerve wracking. You never know with football, but a Fleetwood goal would have been a freak rather than deserved. The final whistle was met witch joyous scenes. The players danced and hugged each other. The owners came onto the pitch and orchestrated the singing. McCall typically deflected the praise onto others, but make no mistake: this was another great Stuart moment.

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

For us City fans, the good times keep on a coming. A third trip to Wembley in five years is incredible. For a club that has seen so much disappointment and mediocrity, these all too infrequent days in the sun need to be savoured and there was no danger of passing up the opportunity to celebrate in the away end. The scenes will live long in the memory. This was surely the best 0-0 stalemate in Bradford City history.

It is 13 years since Bradford City last played a game in the second tier of English football. Their opponents that day? Millwall. The Lions conquered City in the play offs last season. Following the year-long narrative of McCall revisiting the ghosts of the past, it is probably fitting that City come up against old foes.

It won’t be easy, but what an opportunity. What an occasion it will be. 13 years of playing in the lower leagues, but now we definitely are on our way.

Thank you Stuart. Thank you Edin, Stefan, Greg, James and co. Thank you to the players. Thank you everyone who made this happen. Dreams come true.

Only five years after narrowly surviving relegation to non league, the club is on the brink of Championship football and, with it, a full recovery from administration. Six weeks of madness, 12 years of misery, and now five years of amazing progress. The next chapter will be concluded on the grandest of stages. Que Sera Sera.

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Categories: Match Reviews, The 2016/17 play offs

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15 replies

  1. I posted on another forum that McArdle could be Citys POTY. That was met with some mirth.
    Yet it was McArdle who marshalled our defence over two hard fought legs, and it was McArdle who scored the only goal.
    Who will ever forget tonight ? The way McArdle (sorry – City) wiped out a whole team by taking control of a defence against a free kick. A brilliant piece of leadership that would grace a world stage. The defence strode out as one professional, organised unit. All down to McArdle.
    As for Wembley? Stuarts unfinished business may soon be done. With more to come.

    • Couldn’t stop laughing at the FIVE Fleetwood players left offside when our lads ran out.

  2. Beautifully wrote, I look forward to your eulogy when promotion is comfirmed.

  3. Hey Jason,

    One suggestion, start posting your articles on Reddit. (

    It’ll just mean more promo for the blog, and help the internationa. fans (the club might have some) get the latest news.

  4. First a thought for Fleetwood: the commentator mentioned 6 promotions in 10 years, and a stadium of only 5000 made a hell of a racket. Even on TV, I could hear the constant noise. Top notch atmosphere. Our travelling support also get credit for this. If marketed correctly, this club could have a great cult’ following.

    Now for our own club:-

    The match was nice, from a bantam perspective. Fleetwood hardly attacked. It was an away tie where the home team had to score, yet McCall neutered them like vet. We had the possession, the chances & the momentum. Apart from the final few minutes, they lacked any drive whatsoever. I couldn’t believe they finished above us based on the performances I saw.

    Finally, one final plea to the locals here. Break the piggy bank, cash in your holiday savings & make that trip. I’ll be there in spirit. Bring the noise. If we get to the Championship, I’ll be a lot more regular here, cause I get some of those games on TV.

  5. Thank you, Jason, my feelings exactly. I look forward to Wembley AGAIN. Frankly, I was shocked at how City totally outclassed and demoralised Fleetwood, being better in every aspect of the game–effort, tactics, skill, teamwork,commitment. Even our fans came out on top against numerical odds.
    As for the final, who knows? But one thing we shall not lack is desire and true support.
    Final thought. What a poor player is D Cole—McMahon thrashed him.

  6. Rosler seemed be less-then-bothered to try to win the tie. Reminiscent of another manager in last years playoffs who soon after moved on.

  7. The only negative from yesterday and to be fair the first leg too, is that we had to endure the torture at the end. I think you are being very kind to Fleetwood when you say we ‘shaded’ it. It was the most one-sided 180 minutes ever and the fact that, when with 5 minutes to go, we decided to let them attack, one slip-up or moment of genius could have got them level was the only disappointment. We need to take our chances against Millwall – we should have won 3-0 and 0-2 (5-0) aggregate, that wouldn’t have flattered us. Still brilliant season from City and as usual WOAP, let’s hope we can finish the job.

  8. one final point. I cannot remember the last time I saw a team use the classic offside trap from a free kick. City executed it brilliantly yesterday.

    • They did execute it well……but happy if they never do it again! Having seen some pretty poor linesmen (sorry, referee’s assistants …..allegedly) from the Midland Road this season I would not be confident it would always be called correctly however well we did it.

      • I agree – last 5 minutes of the play-offs is not the moment to be experimenting with an offside trap. The way the offside rule is interpreted now means this is extremely dangerous – which is precisely why you haven’t seen one in ages !

        (I’m also not sure that the number 3 who got the ball was actually offside…)

  9. It could be argued that the five who were in offside positions were interfering with play, Sussex Bantam.

    • Chris….’could be argued’…..I think that is exactly the issue, if the referees assistant doesn’t flag (however well we did it) the players can argue till we are blue in the face but it would not change things; I also just feel it would be one of the most crushing ways to concede a goal.

  10. You must be one hell of a forward yourself Jason if you think wyke should have scored that header

    • Simon Parker in the T&A:

      “Josh Cullen’s header sent Mark Marshall scampering along the right wing. He stood up a juicy cross to the far post where Charlie Wyke rattled his header against the woodwork.

      “It looked a repeat of the goal James Hanson had scored from the same spot on Boxing Day a couple of seasons ago – and from no more than four yards out, the centre forward should have buried it.”

      Daily Mail’s Jack Gaughan

      “Charlie Wyke struck a post for Bradford when he ought to have scored from the impressive Mark Marshall’s cross.”

      Looks like a lot of good centre forwards around, Paul.

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