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Six of the best as Bradford City win latest JP Trophy shoot-out
Hartlepool United 0, City 0
(City win 3-2 on pens)
Forget the Germans, the true kings of the penalty shoot-out are Bradford City.
Jon McLaughlin tipped Hartlepool’s final effort from Evan Horwood on to the underside of the bar to clinch an incredible SIXTH successive spot-kick decider in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
City have not won a JPT tie in open play since September 2009. More importantly, they have not lost from 12 yards in the competition in the last half-dozen penalty showdowns.
Nathan Doyle, Nahki Wells and Alan Connell nailed their efforts and, despite misses from Garry Thompson with the first and Andrew Davies the last, the League One hosts crumbled under the pressure.
Phil Parkinson kept six starters from Saturday to stay within the JPT rules. He also stuck with the 4-3-1-2 formation that had played so well in the second half at Dagenham.
Thompson was one of the changes, up front alongside James Hanson, and he nearly created a goal for his partner after six minutes, Scott Flinders just flicking away his drilled cross as Hanson slid in.
McLaughlin produced a strong block to deny a volley from one-time Leeds midfielder Simon Walton after Horwood’s free-kick was only half-cleared.
Connell again played behind the front two and looked to get about the pitch. He collected one pass just outside his own box, took a return in the centre circle and threaded a deflected ball through for Thompson, who fired well over.
McLaughlin pulled off a superb save to finger-tip away a curler from Charlie Wyke, who had only joined Hartlepool on loan from Middlesbrough yesterday morning. The ball looked to be sneaking in at the far post but the keeper was at full stretch to turn it behind.
Ritchie Jones, making his belated first City appearance of the season, looked to slip through on Connell’s back-heel but Flinders whipped the ball away.
Hartlepool had enjoyed the only real chances of the first half and centre half Peter Hartley flashed a header wide from Jonathan Franks’ corner. Then Ryan Noble forced McLaughlin into another save at his near post right on the break.
City had their fair share of the ball without troubling the home goal. Kicking towards the 224 away fans for the second half, Jones immediately whipped in a decent cross which was nicked off Thompson’s head.
But the visitors went close to grabbing the lead from a well-worked move on 57 minutes. Thompson did well to cross low from the left, Connell cleverly back-heeled and Jones met it with a fierce drive – which Flinders managed to deflect over.
The same trio combined again when Connell’s pass was cushioned by Thompson into the path of Jones on the right side of the box. He could have hit it first time but took a touch and then could not keep his effort down.
City were threatening and Connell released Thompson to skip past Darren Holden. His cross set up Hanson but, perhaps conscious of colliding with the far post, he put his header six inches wide.
Hartlepool responded with a mad scramble from Franks’ corner but City were saved by Graham Salisbury’s whistle for a handball.
The game was really opening up and McLaughlin thwarted Wyke before Parkinson made a double substitution, replacing Hanson and Jones with Nahki Wells and Nathan Doyle.
James Meredith also came on for McHugh, who had been beaten a couple of times down City’s left.
Now it was Hartlepool’s turn to press and Davies – a rock at the back – was in the right place to frustrate sub Antony Sweeney.
City hit back as Wells showed quick feet to step inside Neil Austin and test Flinders. Then Connell was just over from the edge of the box after Thompson controlled Stephen Darby’s cross.
As penalties beckoned, Thompson’s cross picked out Ricky Ravenhill, whose looping header beat Flinders but bounced back off the bar.
City need not have worried. There’s only ever one winner when it comes to shoot-outs.
Hartlepool: Flinders 7, Austin 6, Baldwin 7, Hartley 7, Holden 7, Franks 8, Walton 7 (Sweeney 62min), Humphreys 6, Horwood 6, Noble 7, Wyke 7. Subs (not used): Collins, Poole, James, A McHugh.
City: McLaughlin 8, Darby 6, McArdle 7, Davies 8, C McHugh 6 (Meredith 72min), Ravenhill 7, Jones 7 (Doyle 68min), Atkinson 7, Connell 7, Thompson 7, Hanson 6 (Wells 68min). Subs (not used): Hines, Duke.