Bradford City striker Thompson proves it's never too late as injury-time winner shocks Watford (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City striker Thompson proves it's never too late as injury-time winner shocks Watford
Phil Parkinson's face lights up after watching Garry Thompson book City's place in the last 32 for the first time in 11 years
Watford 1 Bradford City 2
Garry Thompson has had a stop-start opening to his City career. But not any more.
The former Morecambe and Scunthorpe forward made his mark in the most dramatic fashion by netting the come-from-behind winner in the final minute of added time.
It capped an amazing finish for the Bantams, who had only clawed themselves level in the 85th minute through Kyel Reid.
But the third straight victory has left Phil Parkinson’s side buzzing – and dreaming of a money-spinning draw against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal next time out.
History was firmly against City in their bid to reach round three for the first time in 11 years. No away team had won any of the 22 previous meetings between the sides.
Ironically, City’s last journey as far as the last 32 ended at Vicarage Road with a 4-1 defeat under Jim Jefferies in October 2001.
Parkinson had promised to freshen up the City line-up and was good to his word with six changes from Saturday’s demolition of Wimbledon.
Jon McLaughlin got his first outing of the season and youngster Carl McHugh was handed a senior debut. He came in at left back with James Meredith pushing forward to midfield.
Stephen Darby and Will Atkinson were also recalled and Parkinson went with a new front two as Alan Connell played off Thompson.
McLaughlin was called into early action with a routine save from Jonathan Hogg’s header before Zavon Hines drove straight at Jonathan Bond in the Watford goal.
But the shapeless opening exchanges burst into life after 18 minutes with City denied the lead by the woodwork.
Hines had the chance to volley at goal, only to scuff his shot, but it fell for Connell to rattle a drive against the inside of the right post. Hines tried to get to the rebound and was knocked to the ground by Martin Taylor but City’s strong shouts for a penalty were ignored.
Referee Chris Sarginson had controversially turned down a last-gasp penalty at Bristol Rovers when he last took charge of a City game in January. Parkinson looked just as unimpressed as he had done that day and fumed at the fourth official.
The shock brought the home fans briefly into life but Watford’s first corner went straight along the floor into McLaughlin’s grasp.
Belgian winger Geoffrey Mujangi Bia, making his Watford debut, cut inside menacingly from the right flank but his low curler was asking too much to bend into the far corner.
Bia then set up Steve Beleck for a ferocious cross-shot which McLaughlin alertly turned across his goal. Connell dawdled over clearing the corner and lost out to Adam Thompson but the defender’s shot lacked the power to trouble the City stopper.
The action was livening up and, as another away penalty shout for handball against Lee Hodson was brushed aside, Gary Jones whipped in a drive which had Bond stretching to save.
Parkinson had challenged his players to show they could compete with higher-class opposition and the first-half evidence was proof they were up to it.
City forced a corner double just before half-time and Thompson was not picked up as he ran in to head towards goal. The loose ball dropped to Connell but he could not make a clean connection and his second stab at it was deflected behind.
But it had been a satisfactory half and one or two home boos at the whistle showed that frustration was beginning to bubble in the stands.
It could have gone even better for City, though, and Parkinson was waiting in the tunnel to remind the referee of the non-decision for the shove on Hines.
Watford looked to pick up the tempo from the start of the second period and City were pushed back in their own territory. Luke Oliver twice made important interventions as the yellow shirts probed for an opening.
But the big man was embarrassed by Ikechi Anya on the byline as he tried to shepherd a ball behind for a goal kick. The on-loan Granada striker forced a corner off him but Hodson blazed wastefully wide from it.
Gianfranco Zola made his first change just before the hour, replacing Bia with Czech Matej Vydra – the star of Saturday’s win over Birmingham.
The game was being played in City’s half and Craig Forsyth, who scored twice in the FA Cup win in January, fizzed a dangerous ball across the six-yard box.
Parkinson brought on Kyel Reid and Nathan Doyle for Hines and Jones, with Oliver taking the captain’s armband from the midfielder.
Ross Jenkins picked out Anya with a clever pass over the top but he dragged his shot wide from a good position. But Watford continued to knock on the door, with Darby having to work overtime to deal with the number of passes being focused on their left flank.
Vydra’s arrival had given Forsyth an ally on that side and Anya also moved across to burrow his way into the box before McLaughlin could smother his attempted cutback.
But the increasing pressure got its reward after 71 minutes. Oliver and Beleck fought for a through ball which the defender stretched to turn away as McLaughlin came off his line to help.
It ran to Anya 25 yards out and he smashed the ball straight back with interest, his shot proving too hot to handle for the keeper, who got a hand to it but could not keep it out.
Parkinson threw on Hanson for Meredith with Thompson reverting back to midfield. Watford brought on Almen Abdi, one of their clutch of Udinese loans, and he immediately rattled McLaughlin’s post with his first touch.
City had found it tough to create anything since the teams turned round. But they stunned Watford with an equaliser out of the blue.
Throwing men forward with five minutes left, Rory McArdle’s lofted free-kick dropped to Oliver by the penalty spot. His shot was blocked but rebounded to Reid, who blasted it past a shocked Bond.
Left back Carl Dickinson tested McLaughlin in stoppage time and there was a scare from Forsyth’s corner as Taylor’s header flashed across the City goal.
Extra-time beckoned – but then came the finale nobody saw coming.
City won a free-kick which McArdle pumped into the Watford box. Bond’s punch was unconvincing and dropped for Thompson, who took one touch to steady himself before rifling it into the far corner.