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Ten out of ten in memorable 2013 for Bradford City
The last 12 months will surely go down as the most amazing in City’s long, proud history – but what were the highlights? Simon Parker picks his top ten matches:
10: TORQUAY 1, CITY 3 – April 1
The English Riviera at Easter may have felt more like Siberia but this win at Plainmoor started turning up the temperature on the play-off pack.
After scrambling back from two down to draw with Southend on Good Friday, it had the feel of an all-or-bust afternoon for City. Anything less than a win would surely finish off their top-seven ambitions.
Wells was rediscovering his form – a sign of things to come – and claimed the assist for the decisive third goal soon after the break as James Hanson headed home from his cross.
9: CITY 4, BRISTOL ROVERS 1 – April 9
Bristol Rovers walked into Valley Parade as League Two’s form team – and limped away on the wrong end of a hiding.
City returned to the play-off zone for the first time in three months with a home performance full of swagger.
Having hit the bar inside 17 seconds, Nahki Wells needed only six minutes to head in Garry Thompson’s cross – and he thumped home the second with a penalty after Ricky Ravenhill was tripped.
Then Andrew Davies signed off a thrilling first half with City’s third goal right on the break. Rovers pulled one back straight after the restart but any fears of a fightback were quashed when Wells sent Thompson clear to put the result beyond doubt.
8: CITY 3, COVENTRY 3 – November 17
City fluffed the early lines in their first television appearance of the season before delivering the most dramatic of finales.
The watching nation were treated to a shoot-out between two of the hottest strikers in the lower leagues.
Callum Wilson of Coventry stole the plaudits at the start as the Sky Blues roared into a two-goal lead, helped by some haphazard home defending.
Andy Webster cashed in for the first before Wilson teed up Leon Clarke to leave City in deep trouble. But another blunder, this time at the other end, let in Nahki Wells for his first goal in two months.
A second quickly followed with an acrobatic volley from another James Hanson flick-on. But Wilson replied with a vicious effort that flew in at the near post.
City threw everything forward as the game ticked on and, deep in stoppage time, they got the reward from a panicky handball, allowing Wells to seal his hat-trick from their first penalty of the season.
7: WALSALL 0, CITY 2 – October 5
Kyel Reid revealed afterwards that he once scored a ‘worldy’ from the halfway line for West Ham’s youth team. But his scorching effort at the Bescot must have run that a very close second.
The winger gets some stick for his inconsistent shooting but when he gets it right there are few cleaner strikers of the ball.
Reid delivered in stunning fashion as a tight-knit first half was edging to a close. Collecting the ball just inside City territory, the winger ignored an unmarked James Meredith to surge forward before unleashing from 35 yards.
The ball flew past Richard O’Donnell in the Walsall goal with such force that it pinged straight back out.
With Walsall still reeling, James Hanson then sealed an impressive away win early in the second half after Mark Yeates had touched on Rory McArdle’s clearance.
6: CITY 2, SHEFFIELD UNITED 0 – August 24
Nahki Wells equalled club history on the afternoon when City buried 26 years of hurt.
The Blades had not lost to their Yorkshire rivals since 1987 but that hoodoo was buried in front of a frenzied 18,000 Valley Parade audience.
And Wells scored for the eighth game in a row to equal a club landmark set by Derek Stokes back in 1960.
His finishing was the difference between two evenly-matched sides. While Jamie Murphy scorned a one-on-one break for the visitors, Wells showed how it should be done by shaking off his marker to angle a drive past George Long.
He made sure of a memorable victory with a second late on, tapping home James Hanson’s unselfish pass after Long spilled a shot from Raffaele De Vita.
5: BURTON 1, CITY 3 – May 5
City blew apart the best home record in English football to secure their return to Wembley.
The odds had been stacked against the Bantams after losing their opening play-off semi-final at Valley Parade.
But Garry Thompson’s second-half blast to reduce the deficit to 3-2 at least offered a lifeline – one they seized before an ecstatic travelling support.
Nahki Wells got the ball rolling when he pounced on a poor header from defender Marcus Holness.
And City edged in front on aggregate with a tremendous blast from James Hanson on his weaker right foot – not a bad way to bring up 50 career goals.
Jacques Maghoma swiftly levelled matters with a penalty after being upended by Thompson. But Hanson and Wells combined once again, the Bermudian swivelling away from his marker to bundle the tie-clinching third.
4: CITY 3, ASTON VILLA 1 – January 8
The impossible dream suddenly became a potential reality on another night of cup heroics at Valley Parade. After Arsenal, surely City were only in the semi-finals to make up the numbers; their giant-killing was already done.
Or maybe not as Aston Villa were dispatched the same way by a home side rising magnificently to the occasion.
The mania began when Zavon Hines shot against a defender, the ricochet falling for Nahki Wells to break the deadlock.
Valley Parade’s hysteria increased when Rory McArdle powered a close-range header past Shay Given from a corner.
James Hanson rocked the bar before Villa threatened to spoil the party as Andreas Weimann dinked a goal over the magnificent Matt Duke.
This was City’s night, though, and Carl McHugh applied the ultimate fairytale ending when he scored against his boyhood idol Given.
3: ASTON VILLA 2, CITY 1 – January 22
“This is the best trip, we’ve ever been on,” boomed the delirious claret and amber corner of Villa Park. And that was before they had sampled Wembley.
As Phil Parkinson put it later, City wrote their name in the history books on one more “I was there” occasion.
Despite trailing from the first leg, Villa were still the bookies’ favourites to see the semi-final job through. The half-time lead, courtesy of Christian Benteke, seemed to underline that belief.
City had not had a sniff but Parkinson used the interval to remind his team that they would get one chance. It was about seizing that moment.
In the 54th minute, they did just that. Winning their first corner, Gary Jones put it in the perfect spot for James Hanson to bullet home.
A late response from Andreas Weimann had no effect on the ultimate outcome – City had defied all the odds to reach the Capital One Cup final.
2: SWANSEA 5, CITY 0 – February 24
The final score almost didn’t matter. Of course it hurt that City were on the wrong end of such a lop-sided outcome but they were winners already, simply for being there.
Anyone who doubted what it meant to be at Wembley involved in a cup final only had to look at the scene with 20 minutes left.
Swansea were 4-0 up and cruising; City had not even mustered a shot. But suddenly the stadium was transformed into a sea of claret and amber.
A wave of flags and a wall of noise as “City ’til I die” rang out loud and proud. The football became a sideshow; the main event was that depth of feeling from 34,000 proud Bradfordians.
Swansea strolled from the 17th minute when Nathan Dyer opened the floodgates. More goals followed and Matt Duke was harshly red-carded; City were outpassed and outclassed.
But they were winners off the field thanks to every single one of those supporters who still made it an occasion to cherish.
1: CITY 3, NORTHAMPTON 0 – May 18
Six years of frustration were wiped away in 28 glorious minutes at City’s ‘second home’.
The time in League Two had felt like a prison sentence for a club whose supporters deserved far better.
Promotion had been a long, long time coming – but was well worth the wait.
City always seem to have Northampton’s number and Baildon boy Aidy Boothroyd found himself stuffed by his home-town club once more on the biggest day of the lot.
After City’s no-show in the Capital One Cup final, there was a sense of revenge – of ‘doing a Swansea’ on the stunned Cobblers.
James Hanson, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells all scored in a dominant opening half hour which ensured the rest of the game was pretty much a procession towards promotion.
City fans watched almost in disbelief at the control exerted by their team. Where was the heart-stopping finish, the nerves in stoppage time?
It was a clinical display from a side that simply knew they would not lose. The job was done in the most professional manner.
It was the highlight of a year in the life of Bradford City that will never, ever be forgotten.
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