Bradford stun Aston Villa to book place in Wembley final

Jan 23, 2013
Bill Mann

Bradford's last big win was 1911 FA Cup: the goal scorer was killed at Passchendaele six years later

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Aston Villa 2 Bradford City 1 (Bradford win 4-3 on aggregate). Bradford are on their way to Wembley to meet either Swansea or Chelsea in the final of the League Cup next month.

The prospect of facing either club will hold little fear for League Two's Bradford, who have knocked out three Premier League clubs en route to Wembley. Wigan, Arsenal and now Villa have all been beaten in a cup run that has, in the words of Bradford manager Phil Parkinson, taken them to "dreamland".

Their 4-3 aggregate defeat of Aston Villa means that the Yorkshire side are the first club from the fourth tier of English football to reach one of the two showpiece finals since Rochdale battled through to the League Cup in 1962. "It is dreamland!" exclaimed Parkinson. "The lads were absolutely fantastic and what it means for the club and the city is absolutely tremendous."

Bradford went to Villa Park defending a 3-1 advantage from the first leg but midway through the second-half they conceded their first goal of the evening. Christian Benteke steered Joe Bennett's cross past Matt Duke to give Villa fans hope that their night wouldn't end in abject humiliation.

But despite dominating the first period Villa couldn't find another goal and after the break Bradford settled and then scored what proved to be the decisive goal, James Hanson rising to head home Gary Jones's corner on 55 minutes. The former supermarket shelf stacker should have added a second minutes later but his close-range header went wide of the Villa goal.

Though Andreas Weimann restored Villa's lead on the stroke of full-time, Bradford held on throughout four long minutes of injury time to book a date at Wembley on 24 February.

The last time Bradford won a cup competition of any importance was their FA Cup win over Newcastle in 1911 when captain Jimmy Speirs scored the only goal of the game. Speirs was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele six years later.

"The lads had a fantastic game tonight and the fans as well, it'll be a great day at Wembley for them," said Bradford keeper Matt Duke. "As a kid playing football, you dream of Wembley and we're going to do it. We're going to take a League Two club to Wembley, we're going to take a massive following, it's going to be an amazing day."

The Bradford faithful will hope their boys fare better than Rochdale when they made it to Wembley in 1962. The then fourth division side lost 4-0 to Norwich over the two legs of the League Cup.

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But Rochdale didn't play at Wembley as the final was a two-leg home/away affair in those days. The first final at Wembley was in 1967. So Bradford are the first division four team ever to play in a Wembley final.