Bradford City: Now bring on the big guns as Wells and Darby shoot down Burton (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Bradford City: Now bring on the big guns as Wells and Darby shoot down Burton Albion
Nahki Wells punches the air in delight after equalising in the 89th minute to take the game into extra-time
Bradford City 3 Burton Albion 2
(aet, 2-2 after 90 minutes)
Surely the God of cup draws will finally smile on City tonight.
The team that never ever get a dream tie have surely earned a juicy one when the fourth-round balls are plucked out of the bag. Manchester United or Chelsea will do or, if not, maybe Spurs or Arsenal.
We’re not fussy but a Premier League plum should be nailed on after the most stirring of fightbacks to conquer Burton.
Just over 4,000 braved the constant pouring rain to trudge to Valley Parade but how that loyalty got its reward.
City looked out for the count at 2-0 down with eight minutes to go.
Step forward substitute Nahki Wells with two late goals to force extra-time. And then take a bow Stephen Darby, the most unsung of heroes.
The former Liverpool right back, one of six changes from Saturday, chose the perfect moment to score his first goal for City. The 115th minute to be precise as his skidding 30-yard drive nestled in the bottom corner.
And City could look forward to their first appearance in the last 16 for nearly a quarter of a century.
Phil Parkinson made six changes, just as he had done for the previous round at Watford. It was a particularly big night for Ricky Ravenhill, back in the fold for the first time since damaging knee ligaments at Guiseley in pre-season.
The pitch had stood up remarkably well to two days of non-stop rain. The £50,000 work on it over the summer was put to the test and extra verti-draining work last week helped prevent a repeat of the surface water that had affected the Fleetwood game.
Garry Thompson and Alan Connell were back in harness up front as they had been at Vicarage Road. And Thompson, the last-gasp hero that night, almost had another cup goal inside four minutes.
Gary Jones exploited the slick conditions with a low drive that escaped from Stuart Tomlinson’s grasp. Thompson was on the rebound in a flash but the keeper managed to block his follow-up.
Then it was Connell’s turn to unnerve the keeper after Andrew Davies picked him out. The striker’s shot on the turn gave Tomlinson more trouble as he unconvincingly two-handed it away.
But City’s bright start came to a shuddering halt after 18 minutes when Burton struck from their first attack. Jack Dyer whipped a cross in for Billy Kee, whose clinical first-time finish flew past Matt Duke.
Tomlinson was straight back in action to deal with a Hines curler but City had another warning from Burton’s first corner, Zander Diamondnodding over after Aaron Webster flicked across goal. The Brewers were really settling into the contest – and rocked the home side with a second on the half hour from another corner after Duke had denied Lee Bell.
Jones, at the near post, nodded Webster’s free header straight back out but he was obviously behind the line as the assistant on the Midland Road side flagged for the goal.
Burton’s tails were up but Tomlinson was still uncomfortable against the low shot. Jones had him scrabbling once again but there was no City striker close enough to pounce when the ball came loose.
Connell went down looking for a penalty and was reprimanded by two Burton defenders. Boss Gary Rowett was equally unimpressed and vented his feelings to the fourth official.
Hines almost played Thompson in but his first touch round the keeper was heavy and Webster was able to get across and block any target of the uncovered goal.
The crowd sensed a City rally as half-time approached and cranked up the volume but Burton, with a two-goal cushion, had blue shirts back in numbers.
Duke had an uncomfortable moment when Dyer managed to retrieve an overhit cross, the keeper just managing to palm away from under his bar.
But Tomlinson was back under the cosh again to keep out Rory McArdle’s header.
The half-time scoreline was harsh on City, who had played some decent stuff but still found themselves going in two behind.
Connell again went down in the corner of the box after a jinking run but referee Nigel Miller gave the decision the other way and booked the City striker for diving.
City’s defending looked less than convincing at times and Anthony O’Connor was allowed another free header from a corner. Fortunately this one flew well wide.
With half an hour left, Parkinson decided it was cavalry time and threw on James Hanson , Nahki Wells and Kyel Reid in a treble substitution.
City continued to press. Thompson cut inside from Reid’s cross but his shot was blocked by O’Connor, then Hanson ’s square ball fell just behind Wells.
O’Connor was Burton’s saviour once more with a stretching clearance to toe the ball away from Hanson after Reid stuck an inviting pass into the six-yard box.
Then James Meredith and Reid rescued a Jones free-kick but Will Atkinson could not direct his drive through a crowd of players.
Burton’s yellow-card count was rising but they still withstood the City pressure. Reid skilfully nutmegged two defenders before Wells fired past the near post.
But the Bermudian made the breakthrough with seven minutes left. Collecting Meredith’s pass in his stride, he left Tomlinson with no chance to send the ball soaring into the far corner.
City were indebted to Duke denying Matt Paterson on a Burton breakaway as they poured forward looking for an equaliser. That save got even bigger when one arrived a minute from time.
Jones’ free-kick was half-cleared; the ball came back in the box, where Hanson’s attempted overhead kick fell for Wells to divert home. It was another classic poacher’s strike from the sub.
Extra-time carried on in a similar vein but penalties loomed. Or so we thought until Darby swung a right foot and drilled City into the fourth round in emphatic fashion.