Three first-half goals guided Phil Parkinson's side to a comprehensive victory over the Cobblers as promotion caps an already historic season for the Yorkshire-based side
First-half goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and top scorer Nahki Wells guided Phil Parkinson’s side to a comprehensive victory, banishing the demons of their last visit to Wembley – a 5-0 defeat to Swansea in the Capital One Cup final.
Bantams fans can now celebrate a truly sensational season as promotion adds to their historic achievement of becoming the first fourth-tier side to reach a league cup final.
Parkinson was able to name an unchanged side from Bradford’s 3-1 second-leg win over Burton Albion in their play-off semi-final.
Northampton, meanwhile, made two changes, dropping top scorer Adebayo Akinfenwa and John Johnson to the bench, with Ishmel Demontagnac and Clive Platt coming in. Professional Footballers’ Association Chairman Clarke Carlisle retained his place to captain the side.
No strangers to the national stadium, it was the Bantams who started on the front foot and Wells was at the heart of the action. First, he flashed a free kick just over after two minutes before coming close with a header shortly after.
The Bermudan forward then almost ran in behind Northampton keeper Lee Nicholls and the Bantams were starting to sense an opportunity. Ben Tozer – the Cobblers’ most capped player this season – was crucial in keeping Bradford out, however.
But on 14 minutes, the breakthrough came. James Meredith and Kyel Reid linked up superbly down the left and the ball worked its way to Garry Thompson inside the area. The 32-year-old crossed for Hanson, who was on hand to head home his 15th goal of the season.
And minutes later, McArdle doubled their lead with a carbon copy of the Bantams’ first. Nathan Doyle this time received the ball on the right-hand side and sent a curling cross into the area. McArdle did the rest with a fine near-post header and one half of Wembley erupted in jubilation.
By now, Aidy Boothroyd’s Northampton side were firmly on the back foot. Bradford kept on pressing and their well-worked crosses kept on coming.
And things got even worse for the Cobblers as Wells made it three with a close-range finish into the bottom left corner. It was his eighth goal in nine games and 26th of a remarkable season.
This was becoming a whitewash in every sense of the word. Half-time came and went and yet it was still Bradford who pushed forward as wave after attacking wave prompted Nicholls into action time and again.
10 minutes after the restart, Boothroyd knew he needed to change something – and on came Akinfenwa. Yet the 31-year-old’s first action of the game was to miscue an effort horribly wide; the Bradford fans enjoyed that one.
After 70 minutes, the irrepressible chants began: 'we are going up', the Bradford fans sang. And twenty minutes later, the chants became reality.