As Bradford join Gillingham, Rotherham and Port Vale in League One next season, Lucy Waldon guides us through the play-off final.
Wembley was a sea of burgundy on Saturday as the claret and amber of Bradford City faced the claret and white of Northampton Town. The teams had previously beaten Burton and Cheltenham, respectively, and were now battling it out for a place in the third tier of English football.
While Phil Parkinson stuck with the same side that won at the Pirelli 13 days previous, Cobblers’ boss Aidy Boothroyd made two changes. Adebayo Akinfenwa had to settle for a place among the subs, replaced by Clive Platt who was making his first start in two months; there was also a return for Ishmel Demontagnac in midfield, John Johnson dropping to the bench.
In truth, this was over as a contest at half time, with the Bantams holding a commanding three goal lead going in at the break.
Bradford started brightly and created a number of chances in the opening moments: Wells first striking a free kick off-target and then, moments later, producing a weak header.
The opening goal did finally come Bradford’s way, with 15 minutes on the clock. James Hanson notched his 15th for the season when his looping header left Nicholls with no chance.
Northampton’s first opportunity followed, but it was no more than a half chance – Demontagnac’s near-post scuff was easily cleared. From here, the Bantams countered and doubled their advantage: a cross from Nathan Doyle was left by everyone, allowing Kyel Reid to knock it back for Rory McArdle to power a header home.
While the Cobblers offered little in terms of creativity and chances, Bradford looked lethal and kept the ball well. Wells made it three before half an hour was played – yet another deep cross wasn’t cut out and Thompson headed to the far post, where the Bermudan was on hand to nip in.
Nicholls ensured the score stayed at three with a number of saves towards the end of the opening period: tipping over a header from Reid before easily saving a Wells’ effort, thanks to pressure by Clarke Carlisle.
The Bantams started the second half in much the same style as they did the first, James Meredith’s long throw deceiving Carlisle, who could’ve turned in to his own net, but for Nicholls’ fingertip save.
The Cobblers made a couple of changes with Joe Widdowson replacing Lee Collins and Platt making way for the big man, Akinfenwa.
With 20 minutes remaining, Boothroyd used his final throw of the dice with Lewis Hornby on for Demontagnac. A couple of chances fell Northampton’s way in the closing minutes – Roy O’Donovan heading off-target and Ben Harding firing a free kick straight at Jon McLaughlin – but by that stage it was too little, too late.
It finished Bradford 3, Northampton 0. A great feat for Bradford, having played 64 games this season and finished 7th in the League. They were worthy winners on the day.