September 1998: WEST BROM 0 CITY 2 (Mills 4, 16)

FORGET Mills and Boon – it was Mills and Blake that City fans fell head over heels in love with.

Lee Mills and Robbie Blake were the scoring forces behind the club’s thrilling rise to the Premier League with 40 goals between them in the promotion season of 1998-1999.

Mexborough-born Mills was the club’s first million-pound player when he joined from Port Vale the previous summer as Paul Jewell’s squad was assembled for their push for the top.

He would reward the club with 24 goals and strike up a partnership with Blake that was the one of the deadliest outside of the elite.

It is 20 years ago this week that he left Valley Parade in another seven-figure move to Portsmouth, where he netted just five times in an unsuccessful 16-month stint.

He failed to rekindle his prolific City form for the rest of his career. But for that sensational season, he was irresistible.

One of his biggest performances came early on – and put the wheels back on the Bantam bandwagon after a rocky start.

All the preseason bluster and big predictions led by chairman Geoffrey Richmond had been made to sound hollow by a stuttering opening.

City had won just one of the first seven games of the Division One campaign to leave them third from bottom on five points – already 14 behind leaders Huddersfield.

Losses to Stockport at home, Watford, Crewe and Ipswich had begun the grumbles. The manner of the 3-0 defeat at Portman Road had turned the spotlight on Jewell’s future as manager.

Mills and Blake converted well-worked goals in a decent response against Sheffield United at Valley Parade but lapses in concentration had cost City hopes of victory in a 2-2 draw.

They headed for West Brom eight days later for a televised encounter needing to justify their credentials to a doubting Bradford public as well as the national audience.

The size of the price tag for Mills had attracted criticism from some quarters but he had settled in quickly despite the indifferent team displays.

He had given City an aerial presence up front, something they had lacked, and chipped in with three headed goals. But he would also prove dangerous on the deck – as West Brom found out to their cost.

A double strike in the first 16 minutes at the Hawthorns provided the launchpad for Jewell’s men from which they never looked back.

His first goal may have had an element of fortune about it when the City striker's shot spun in off the post following some great work by Isaiah Rankin.

But there could be no doubting the quality of the second as Mills produced an effort right out the top drawer.

Matt Carbon's header fell into his path 40 yards from goal and Mills showed great pace and determination to get in front of centre half Paul Raven.

After running on into the box, Mills not only managed to keep Raven at bay but evaded both Carbon and Andy McDermott before drilling a left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net.

It was a just reward for City's scintillating football in a first half that left their hosts chasing shadows.

Jewell had opted for a formation which saw Blake on the left and Peter Beagrie on the right with both given licence to roam – providing they were back in position when West Brom had the ball.

It worked a treat as City created several chances to increase their lead. Stuart McCall and Gareth Whalley controlled midfield with some neat inter-passing to keep the ball moving and pin the hosts on the back foot.

At the other end, Andy O’Brien slotted back in for the ill John Dreyer to help with the first clean sheet of the season. Lee Hughes apart, West Brom hardly got a sniff against a defence masterminded by Darren Moore.

It was an impressive team effort to take the heat off and convince the cynics what they would be capable of. Belief had been restored.

Mills would score a double soon after against former club Vale and another – as well as being sent off – at Swindon. In January 1999, he would claim his only City hat-trick in a home win over Crewe.

And on the final day of the season, Mills would return to the black country to score the second in that unforgettable triumph at Wolves.

But it was that two-goal salvo against West Brom eight months earlier that had laid the foundations for what was to follow.

WEST BROM: Miller, Carbon (Mardon 34), McDermott, Raven, van Blerk, Flynn (Maresca 68), Sneekes, Kilbane, Quinn, Hughes, De Freitas (Angel 77).

CITY: Walsh, Wright, Moore, O’Brien, Jacobs, Beagrie, McCall, Whalley, Blake, Mills, Rankin (Watson 19, Ramage).