BRADFORD CITY’S six-year stint in the Football League basement was ended in style at Wembley as the Bantams claimed a spectacular redemption moment at the venue where they were humbled in the Capital One Cup.
With memories of their 5-0 annihilation at the hands of a rampant Swansea City side in February in both players and Bantams supporters minds, the clock came around in irresistible fashion for Phil Parkinson’s troops to crown a truly unforgettable season for the claret and amber.
In the process, City became only the second White Rose side to triumph in two play-off finals at Wembley following on from their victory under former manager Chris Kamara against Notts County in the second division play-off showpiece in 1996.
In their 64th outing of the campaign, the Bantams excelled themselves with a consummate performance, which saw three goals plundered in 13 far from unlucky mfirst-half minutes to acccount for the beleaguered Cobblers and their Bradford-born manager Aidy Bothroyd.
Bradford’s players came to the party impressively after their no-show against the Swans, with their dominance against Town almost akin to that enjoyed by Michael Laudrup’s free-flowing Welshmen versus themselves.
City drew first blood on 15 minutes when James Hanson, semi-final hero in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Villa Park in January, again produced an important goalscoring contribution in a game that truly mattered.
James Meredith’s cross was not cleared by the dithering Cobblers rearguard with Garry Thompson lobbing the ball back into the danger area with Hanson rising above ex-Leeds and York defender Clarke Carlisle to expertly guide a well-placed header beyond Lee Nicholls.
Eight minutes later, the Bantams added to their tally, to the joy of their 23,000 supporters with Rory McArdle displaying the instincts of a striker to head firmly past Nicholls after nipping in front of Clive Platt following Nathan Doyle’s inviting cross.
A last-ditch challenge from Nathan Cameron then denied Nakhi Wells before the Bermudian came to the party with his 26th strike of a goal-laden campaign.
Having struck six goals in his career so far against the chastened Cobblers, Wells added a magnificent seventh, volleying home clinically at the near post after Thompson providing his second choice assist of the day, heading back Kyel Reid’s cross into his path.
City could have added to their tally before the interval, with Reid’s header tipped over by the busy Nicholls, with Town’s only dangerous contributions of a one-sided half coming by virtue of two Clive Platt headers, which drifted wide.
On the restart, the shellshocked Cobblers continued to bring little to the table in a thoroughly disheartening spring afternoon for their fans in the 47,127 crowd.
City threatened to add to their account, with Hanson’s close-range effort bringing an alert parry from Nicholls before Thompson fired wide following a lightning break.
Reid struck a volley wide from Wells centre as City continued to display the consummate touches in a fitting end to a thrilling campaign, which saw the claret and amber hordes celebrate with gusto long before the final whistle.
Bradford City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Meredith, Thompson, Doyle (Ravenhill 87), Jones, Reid (Atkinson 78), Wells (Connell 84), Hanson. Substitutes not used: Nelson, Hines, McHugh, Duke.
Northampton Town: Nicholls, Tozer, Cameron, Carlisle, Collins (Widdowson 53), Demontagnac (Hornby 69), Harding, Guttridge, Hackett, O’Donovan, Platt (Akinfenwa 56). Substitutes not used: Snedker, Johnson, Langmead, Robinson.
Referee: K Stroud (Hants).