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Amazing Bradford City conjure up Capital display
Wigan 0, City 0
(City win 4-2 on pens)
They came in their thousands and roared until their throats ran dry.
They saw their team bridge a 59-place gulf on a night that will live long in the memory of anyone connected with Bradford City.
And they conquered Premier League opposition to make it through to the last eight of the Capital One Cup.
Yep, that’s right, the Bantams will be in tonight’s quarter-final draw – and how they and their magnificent supporters deserve it.
Phil Parkinson had called the tie with Wigan a reward for his players after such a good start to the season – and for the fans who have followed the club through thin and thinner.
And how the travelling 5,000 lapped up a performance that was long on courage for two hours of goalless action and steely determination from 12 yards to finish the job in the penalty shoot-out.
As the only League Two survivors in the competition, the odds were heavily stacked against the Bantams – and that was before the injury double blow at centre half and Ricky Ravenhill’s weekend red card.
City headed for Lancashire with the news that Luke Oliver had undergone morning surgery on the snapped Achilles tendon that will rule him out for the rest of the season.
With Andrew Davies also out while his twisted knee is assessed, Parkinson picked the only four senior defenders still standing. The pressure was certainly on teenager Carl McHugh, who was making just his fourth appearance, and he began with a confident early tackle in the City box.
Wigan were keen to make home advantage count in their first cup tie at the DW Stadium since January last year. Not that you would have known whose ground it was as the noise boomed from the end rammed with City fans.
Some struggled to make kick-off because of traffic delays but the volume was still cranked up to maximum from the start.
Wigan had the ball in the net inside the first ten minutes as Ivan Ramis headed in Ben Watson’s free-kick but the centre half was flagged for offside.
City were under the cosh as the Premier League side looked for an early breakthrough to burst their bubble. Matt Duke, in for Jon McLaughlin in goal, made an important save at the feet of Mauro Boselli after Jordi Gomez had threaded a pass into the danger area.
Gomez should have done better from close range after Boselli nodded Ronnie Stam’s cross into his path but fired over Duke’s bar.
But having survived that 20-minute barrage, City began to get a foothold in the match and their confidence gradually increased.
Ramis almost put his own keeper in trouble with an errant pass across the Wigan box but Ali Al Habsi was on his toes to get there before Nahki Wells.
The Bermudian did get City’s first shot after 25 minutes, volleying high and wide from James Meredith’s pass. If anything, it made the noise behind Al Habsi’s goal even louder.
As the visitors settled into the game, James Hanson went down after a bump from Watson but referee Roger East ignored the shouts for a penalty.
The contest was beginning to drift with half-time approaching, a sign that City had done a decent job in stifling their hosts.
They had another penalty appeal waved away as Stephen Darby ran into a sandwich between Adrian Lopez and Callum McManaman. Parkinson turned pleadingly to the fourth official but the man who mattered on the pitch was unmoved.
Wells was his usual lively self and unloaded the first shot on target with an ambitious 30-yarder that hardly troubled Al Habsi.
But Duke had to be at his best at the other end to keep out a Gomez volley to ensure City went into the break justifiably on level pegging.
Wigan’s frustration at failing to pick them off was obvious and Jones immediately warmed Duke’s hands with a 25-yarder on the resumption.
McHugh had given a mature performance so far but he caught Gomez late and followed Jones into the referee’s book.
The Wigan backlash had still not materialised and Boselli’s run towards the box was halted by a well-timed challenge by Will Atkinson.
He had got the starting nod over Gary Jones as Parkinson tried to ease the midfield talisman back from injury, although he came on after 57 minutes for Garry Thompson to a huge roar.
Wigan pressed and Rory McArdle whacked the ball from the lurking Gomez after Boselli had nodded back into the six-yard box. Then Stam crossed deep from the right but Danny Redmond’s header bounced the wrong side of the post.
Zavon Hines was sent tumbling by Lopez as City looked to counter and there was a second substitution before the free-kick, Alan Connell replacing Wells who appeared to have taken a knock.
The silence around the bulk of the DW Stadium conveyed Wigan’s concern at their failure to turn dominant possession into genuine chances. Robert Martinez’s gamble to make wholesale changes – only two of the side had faced West Ham in their last league game – was not paying off as planned.
With 15 minutes to go, Connell suddenly sprung Hines clear to tear forward from halfway. Watson trailed in his wake but the winger bore down on goal, only for Al Habsi to block at his near post.
Duke parried a long-range blast from Watson before Martinez brought on two bigger guns, Jean Beausejour and Shaun Maloney. Still City held them at bay and Meredith tracked back well with Gomez before sliding across to whip the ball away.
Wigan were faced with a line of six defenders every time they attacked, with Hines and Atkinson dropping back to support. When Stam looked to find a gap, McArdle was straight in with a strong block.
Gomez released Boselli but he was running away from goal and his low shot was easily gathered by Duke.
Doyle whistled one wide as the last few minutes of normal time ticked away but more defensive diligence was needed as Maloney looked to pull Wigan’s attacking strings and the sub was not far off with a decent effort on goal.
Wigan began extra-time with a flurry and Duke produced another sprawling save from Boselli. From the corner, Beausejour’s goal-bound shot deflected over the bar off McHugh before Boselli headed into the side-netting.
Beausejour’s teasing cross just eluded Boselli before the Argentinian’s shot on the turn was fingered round the post by Duke – only for a goalkick to be given.
Adam Baker came on for Hines as City continued to hold out. Beausejour had made a difference on Wigan’s left flank and whipped in another low ball that was begging to be finished.
Gomez should have finally turned Wigan’s pressure into a goal after 111 minutes when bursting through as City waited in vain for offside. But he slid his shot inches wide of the far post.
Maloney’s trickery worked an opening on the edge of the box but once again Duke was across to parry to safety.
Jones was upended on a rare City break but McArdle could not keep his header down from the free-kick. So once again we had the prospect of penalties – and that’s one area where City are never the underdogs.
True to form, they completed an amazing seventh straight triumph from spot-kicks. All four of City’s were spot on but Wigan’s nerve went when Maloney spooned the third over the bar.
Gomez had to convert the next one to keep them in it but Duke guessed right – and that sparked scenes of hysteria that City have not seen in a very long time.