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This is the stuff that dreams are made of for Bradford City
Dare to dream.
Words uttered in the T&A on Monday to reflect the magnitude of last night’s occasion.
It was an apt headline.
At an emotionally-fraught Valley Parade last night, a city and a football club dared to dream.
The Bantams were supposed to have had their moment of glory against Arsenal four weeks ago.
Then they scored early. Then they were brave.
Then they claimed their ninth successive penalty shoot-out victory.
Surely they could not put a third top-flight side to the sword?
Well, actually it turns out they could.
Goals from Nahki Wells, Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh, coupled with Matt Duke’s truly stunning performance, put Phil Parkinson’s men in with a serious chance of reaching the Capital One Cup final at Wembley on February 24.
It has to be remembered that it is only half-time and that Aston Villa will surely be a far tougher proposition in a fortnight’s time.
But sometimes in life you get what you deserve and few this morning will argue that City did not merit their two-goal advantage.
They tackled as if their lives depended on it and sweated blood for the cause.
City had never previously reached the League Cup semi-finals in over 50 years of trying.
It was Villa who lifted the inaugural trophy in 1961, beating Rotherham United 3-2 on aggregate.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then but last night was a major opportunity to take a giant step towards English football’s spiritual home.
City supporters turned up in their thousands again and sung themselves hoarse.
They believed in their football club, in Parkinson and in his players.
They felt proud to be from Bradford.
The city has been the butt of too many jokes down the years and one wag even used his column in a national newspaper yesterday to take a swipe.
“Bradford, a city invented only so we’d think well of Barnsley,” he wrote.
Yet City have put Bradford on the map for all the right reasons with a League Cup campaign which began at Notts County before the league season had even begun.
Despite their recent indifferent league form, the Bantams had cause for optimism before kick-off.
After all, if they could dump out a full-strength Arsenal in the previous round, why not Villa?
In front of another crowd in excess of 22,000 and a live television audience, there was certainly no hiding place for City.
Not that they suggested they were looking.
Parkinson’s men withstood an early battering before Wells fired them in front in the 19th minute.
Villa had dominated much of the opening quarter of the game. Fabian Delph – Bradford born and on City’s books as a youngster before joining Leeds United – cut an impressive figure in the middle of the park.
So too did Charles N’Zogbia but Christian Benteke could not beat Duke after being played in by Delph.
City gradually steadied themselves. As against Arsenal, they struck the opening blow when Zavon Hines’ shot ricocheted to Wells at the far post and he drilled a clinical right-foot shot from 12 yards out.
The strike was Wells’ 16th of the season and only served to enhance his reputation further.
From that point on City had a platform.
Parkinson’s orders from the touchline would have been simple.
Keep your heads, maintain your shape, stay disciplined. Easier said than done, of course.
Villa are a curious side.
They are awash with youthful promise but lack leadership and have suffered some severe hidings in the Premier League this season.
They did create openings last night but Duke had the game of his life, making countless saves, with several of them straight out of the top drawer.
City and their supporters grew in confidence as the game wore on, with a thumping header by McArdle from Gary Jones’ cross stretching their lead.
Moments later James Hanson hit the woodwork with a header, before Villa replied through Andreas Weimann.
That was harsh on City, who responded with another thumping header by McHugh to restore the hosts’ two-goal advantage.
Few City goals at Valley Parade have ever been more rapturously received.
Promotion remains the priority, of course, but last night the home faithful headed home believing their club could be on the brink of an unbelievable achievement.
Last night the Bantams dared to dream.
A dream that could yet become a glorious reality.