Featured image courtesy of Sean Turpin
Bradford City emerged victorious in the Bradford derby thanks to an 89th-minute winner from striker Tom Clare.
It was the Bantams that then lifted the Tom Banks Memorial Trophy, just over a year after suffering a 3-0 defeat at the Horsfall Stadium in the 2017 showpiece.
The hosts started brightly, and an early corner was forced when Ryan Toulson’s cross was steered wide of the post by Shay McCartan. The delivery found a Bradford (PA) trialist, but his shot was blocked.
Ben McKenna found space in behind the City backline after just four minutes following some deft footwork and a one-two with a trialist, but the goalkeeper raced out to collect ahead of him.
The visitors caught their first glimpse of goal through Tyrell Robinson, who combined well with Kai Bruenker before seeing his shot held comfortably by Steven Drench.
A mazy yet direct run from McCartan led to the City playmaker being bundled to the ground by a Bradford (PA) trialist, but the resulting free-kick was lifted over the crossbar by the Northern Ireland international.
The abundance of flair and quality in City’s attacking contingent was always going to see them enjoy opportunities, but they were carved open by the hosts on plenty of occasions. Thomas Isherwood, a recent recruit from Bayern Munich, was forced to make a crucial interception to prevent Toulson’s pass reaching an on-rushing McKenna, who was about to burst through City’s backline.
The Bradford (PA) pressure was eventually rewarded, as Toulson floated a cross in from the right that was bundled in at the back-post by a trialist.
Mark Bower’s side found another gear after breaking the deadlock, mounting more pressure on City and threatening to double their advantage on more than one occasion. Danny Lowe advanced down the left before pulling back to Nicky Clee, who found McKenna, but the latter’s shot was held by the goalkeeper.
As the hosts continued to stifle City’s attacking threat, they very nearly added to their tally on the stroke of half-time when a trialist darted into the box and forced the goalkeeper to turn his low drive wide of the post.
HALF-TIME: Bradford (Park Avenue) 1-0 Bradford City
A more potent City side emerged from the dressing room for the second-half, despite just one change being made. Omari Patrick rounded Lowe twice in as many minutes and forced Toulson and Shane Killock to make last-ditch challenges in the six-yard box.
Bradford (PA) remained in contention despite the early onslaught and George Sykes-Kenworthy, a goalkeeper introduced at half-time, was forced to beat away a powerful close-range effort from McKenna at full stretch.
There was a brief lull in entertainment at the Horsfall as both sides rang the changes, but service was eventually resumed when a City trialist found the top corner with a sensational piledriver of a strike from 30-yards out.
Bradford (PA) then squandered an opportunity to take the lead after a trialist latched on to a Danny Boshell pass, before making an incisive dart into the box and firing wide at the crucial moment.
The National League North side were eventually punished for not being ruthless in front of goal, as Tom Clare raced on to a lofted pass before steering into the bottom corner and sealing victory.
FULL-TIME: Bradford (Park Avenue) 1-2 Bradford City
Bradford (PA): Drench, Toulson, Lowe, Wroe, Killock, Havern, McKenna, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist, Clee.
Substitutes: L. Johnson, Trialist, Nowakowski, Spencer, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist.
Bradford City: Trialist, Devine, Hudson, Trialist, Knight-Percival, Isherwood, Patrick, Gunner, Bruenker, McCartan, Robinson.
Substitutes: Hefele, Sykes-Kenworthy, Peters, Powell, Clare, Milambo, Farrar, Prata, Adams.