CITY’S Wembley dream was snatched from their grasp in the cruellest way.

Matt Butcher popped up with a Wycombe winner in added time to give the League One side a victory they hardly deserved in tonight's Bristol Street Motors Trophy semi-final at Valley Parade.

It was a hammer blow for the Bantams, who had created so many chances but could not find a way past excellent keeper Max Stryjek.

Would Andy Cook have made that difference? Probably.

Graham Alexander had made four changes from the weekend win over Sutton.

The big call to replace the suspended Cook saw Tyler Smith given the nod for only his second start in 10 games.

He had much to prove after his form had tailed off in the post-Christmas slump in results. But the big chances that fell his way would go begging.

Richie Smallwood was back from serving the first part of his league ban – he is out again at Barrow this weekend – and partnered Kevin McDonald in the City engine room. Alex Gilliead shuffled across to left wing-back.

With Matty Platt ruled out, Sam Stubbs resorted to his familiar defensive role after his weekend stint in midfield.

Only four of the team in the first 11 had started the FA Cup tie against the Chairboys in November. No wonder Alexander called that game “irrelevant” to their preparations.

Referee Tom Reeves had needed a bit of convincing pre-match about the state of the pitch following the constant rain through the day.

With the surface taking another battering, the officials called a couple of huddles before deciding the contest could go ahead. Not that either manager had a problem with it.

Smith had six goals from his previous three EFL Trophy outings – and should have increased that tally with the game barely a minute old.

McDonald’s ball over the top sent the striker scampering clear but he had too much time to think about it and fired straight at Max Stryjek.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tyler Smith bursts through for a great chance in the second minuteTyler Smith bursts through for a great chance in the second minute (Image: Thomas Gadd)

The in-form Clarke Oduor then sent a rasping half-volley just over the bar.

City fans were behind that goal at the Bradford end and helped create a lively atmosphere in the opening exchanges.

They nearly had one to cheer on 17 minutes as Ciaran Kelly’s pass was cleared as far as Calum Kavanagh, whose early shot scooted past the post.

The rain had kept away for a few hours but came back with a vengeance as the first half reached the midway point. But that didn’t dampen the noise level.

McDonald brought his usual calming presence to the middle and intercepted Wycombe’s attempts to counter from a City corner.

But the Scot could not get a proper connection when teed up by Kavanagh as the action remained predominantly in Wycombe territory.



There was a hint of danger when Garath McCleary’s cross fizzed through the City box.

But it was the home side continuing to ask the questions. Brad Halliday started and almost finished a promising move and McDonald’s give and go into the box was halted by a block from Josh Scowen.

Ciaran Kelly went down in some discomfort right at the end of the first half – and was forced off within two minutes of the restart. Liam Ridehalgh took over on the left of the back three.

Smith was foiled again by Stryjek after two Wycombe defenders got in each other’s way from Kavanagh’s cross, the keeper blocking the snapshot with his right boot.

City were getting closer and McDonald bent one inches wide from the edge of the box as the noise boomed.

Kavanagh was hunting a third goal in as many games and saw his low shot on the spin blocked by the increasingly-busy Polish keeper.

Oduor fizzed a long-range effort wide as the tie went into the final 20 minutes with City still pushing for a way through.

Ridehalgh took Gilliead’s pass into the box, slipped and then recovered to whip in a cross that was missed by the diving Smith.

Then Halliday surged into the box before laying off to Smith, who turned and shot straight at the grateful Stryjek.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Gilliead never stopped running in his role at left wing-backAlex Gilliead never stopped running in his role at left wing-back (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Kavanagh showed a great engine to make a block in his own box and then win a foul on the edge of Wycombe’s. He took the free-kick, which was beaten away by the keeper.

Stryjek then defied Kavanagh again from a close-range header to continue his one-man resistance.

Colin Doyle, in contrast, had hardly been called upon – but was alert to McCleary’s far-post header after Jack Grimmer’s cross picked him out.

Penalties beckoned as the game went into five added minutes. But then came the sting in the tail for City.

Stubbs, who had hardly put a foot wrong, was caught out by Richard Kone who set up Butcher to angle a shot past Doyle.

It was such a painful way to exit the competition.