Bradford City have reached the League One play-off final thanks to a controlled display in a 0-0 draw at Fleetwood, which meant a 1-0 aggregate victory.
Marshall and Meredith
Bradford were not a constant threat but they still created the better openings with positive play down the left. James Meredith’s positive overlapping runs created space for Mark Marshall to put in some excellent deliveries, some of which could have been attacked more in the box. When Marshall switched to the right he crossed for Charlie Wyke to see a back-post header come off the post on 29-minutes, before the winger nearly netted in comical fashion through Alex Cairns’ rebounded clearance.
Fleetwood’s lack of urgency
Uwe Rosler said pre-match that he was happy for his team to be patient, but perhaps they were overly patient. Most teams either press high or counter quickly as a way of creating chances, yet Fleetwood did neither. They allowed Bradford to have the ball for long spells and when they did receive it, they would take a long time playing out from the back. For a semi-final second leg, the strategy should have been to play at a much higher tempo and get the fans behind the team. Instead, their performance and by extension the atmosphere, was more befitting of a pre-season game.
Ashley Hunter and Bobby Grant had free headers either side of half-time but both were straight at Colin Doyle, who was barely tested. That was mainly due to strong performances from centre-backs Rory McArdle, who netted the winner on Thursday and Nat Knight-Percival, who dealt with everything thrown at him. This was a controlled performance from Bradford, who kept hold of the ball well and gave nothing away in their own half.
Timothee Dieng replaced Billy Clarke to help Bradford win their midfield battle while Alex Gilliead looked lively after coming on for Nicky Law. Josh Cullen put in a tidy performance and, helped by the hold-up play of the industrious Wyke, he had two late efforts but they lacked power and direction respectively.
Fleetwood out with a whimper
Rosler made on paper attacking changes. Strikers Devante Cole and Wes Burns entered the fray, so too attacking midfielder Cameron Brannagan with centre-back Ashley Eastham among those departing. The German’s new-found bravery however was not emulated on the pitch as the Cod Army continued to pass around the back, forward men left unused. Grant hit a speculative shot well over before Cian Bolger failed to connect with an injury-time free-kick in the best openings Fleetwood could muster in the closing stages. It has been undoubtedly a good season for them, but this was a sour way for it to end.
Bantams at Wembley
Bradford City have progressed in every season since they finished 18th in League Two in 11/12. This victory guarantees a continuation of that trend, with the team knocked out at semi-final stage last season by Millwall. It is the Lions they will face at Wembley and the West Yorkshire side have a 50/50 chance of Championship football next year. Considering that this season has seen huge changes in the board room, in the dug-out and on the tactic’s board, promotion would be an excellent achievement.