Bradford City fans hailed a stunning victory over Premier League big guns Aston Villa last night as the Bantams moved to within 90 minutes of a historic place in the Capital One Cup Final.
A 22,245-strong sea of claret and amber left Valley Parade chanting “We’re going to Wembley” after watching Phil Parkinson’s men slay yet another top-flight side after beating Arsenal and Wigan – leaving them just one game away from becoming the first side from the lowest tier to reach the final of the competition since Rochdale in 1962.
The 3-1 win over Villa is just half a job, with a vital trip to Villa Park on January 22, but supporters were confident.
Graham Harper, 33, of Frizinghall, said: “Bring on Wembley! I was confident we would win, but didn’t expect this result at all – to take a two goal advantage to Villa Park is unbelievable.
“This has to be one of the greatest games I have ever seen. The atmosphere has been phenomenal!”
Two hours before the game, the City faithful had begun making their pilgrimage to Valley Parade in the knowledge that the Bantams could not “keep calm and take it to penalties”.
But fans spoke of their optimism that Bradford could take the scalp of another Premier League giant without relying on their prowess from the spot.
Brothers Simon, 40, and James Clayton, 36, of Calverley, outside The Co-operative Stand, predicted a City win.
“It’s fantastic for fans,” said Simon, who was hoping for a 0-0 draw or 1-0 win.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 14, I even travelled from the Lakes when I moved away for a while.
“It really is a family club.”
Bradford City fire survivor Peter Sherman, 59, of Lidget Green, told how he was fourth in the queue when tickets for the semi-final went on sale – when the first in line had their card declined!
The life-long supporter and season ticket holder was at the game with his son John, 37, who was nine when flames ripped through Valley Parade in 1985, claiming the lives of 56 fans. “I’ve supported Bradford through thick and thin,” Peter said.
Bradford Bulls’ owner Omar Khan, also a Bradford City ambassador, was standing outside the executive entrance an hour before kick off. He was predicting a 2-1 Bantams’ win.
“I think the team feels proud and will give it 110 per cent,” he said. “The last game against Arsenal was the most exciting game I have ever watched.”
As the match kicked off, a handful of fans gathered at nearby City pub Haigy's on Lumb Lane, where the game was shown on a big screen.
Beer-drinking supporters jumped and cheered as Nahki Wells struck in the 18th minute. And at half time, supporter Mick Gledhill, 27, of Undercliffe, said: “City deserve their lead.”
Cheers of elation when Rory McArdle’s header made it 2-0 turned to despair as it appeared Villa had secured a potentially crucial away goal courtesy of Andreas Weimann.
One fan said: “Now is the time we need to pray.”
And minutes later his prayers were answered as Carl McHugh made it 3-1.