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.
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.