Snowball fight helped us knock Aston Villa cold, says Bradford City keeper Matt Duke

Matt Duke at the centre of the celebrations at Villa Park

Matt Duke at the centre of the celebrations at Villa Park

First published in Bantams Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Bradford City Reporter

When City kicked off the Capital One Cup in round one, they had a snowball in Hell’s chance of making the final.

But it was a play fight in the white stuff that convinced Matt Duke that the impossible dream would become reality.

Keeper Duke has been a massive figure in this cup run to end all cup runs, his penalty shoot-out exploits against Wigan and Arsenal followed up with a string of crucial saves in both semi-final games to thwart Aston Villa.

Many pundits thought the Bantams would freeze at Villa Park after their first-leg heroics. But Duke credited the current icy snap for helping them keep cool heads.

With City scrambling around for a suitable venue to train pre-match, it stopped minds from wandering about the task that awaited them.

Duke said: “We woke up Monday morning and you had all the disruption with the snow. So we spent all day wondering what you were going to do and where we would train.

“The last thing in anyone’s head was the game itself. I’m sure that helped.

“We got the text not to come in and then another one later on telling us we were going down early to train at St George’s Park.

“Then we got the coach stuck and all the boys had to get off the bus to try and get it moving! We all ended up having a snowball fight and being daft and I felt then that this was something special.

“It wasn’t until late Monday night when we had the team meeting and talked about it, that it sunk in that we were so close to reaching Wembley.”

It is going to take a while yet for the realisation that City have actually made it to the final to permeate through the players and supporters.

Duke has never been involved in one before – and could not have imagined he would achieve that ambition with a League Two club.

He added: “I was fortunate to play in the Premier League and you always fancy yourself to have a bit of a cup run. But I’ve never even come close to something like this before.

“I thought Wigan away was our cup final in a sense, then it’s just gone on from there.

“We had another final against Arsenal then another two against Villa. We’ve had a final every round!

“The atmosphere at Villa Park was electric but we were used to that from the two previous games at Bradford. It wasn’t much different in noise.

“But we didn’t dare to dream before the game because we knew they could turn it on and do us 5-0 easily.

“Villa put a lot of pressure on us in the first half and it was crucial we stayed at 1-0. We then regrouped and we always fancied ourselves to score, especially from a set-piece.

“And I believed that if we could score, we would do it.”

Rochdale are the only other club from the fourth tier to reach the League Cup final and that was only in the competition’s second season when a lot of teams still opted out of taking part.

City will be the first from the basement level to play the final at Wembley.

Duke said: “It’s 51 years since a team in our division got to the final and might be another 50 before it happens again.

“But it’s great to see the underdog do well and you get texts from people not just in England but all over the world. It’s just amazing for the club and will be a great day no matter what.

“But we don’t want to get hammered, we want to do ourselves proud again and put on another good show for the fans.”

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