Bradford City caused one of many cup upsets last night by unceremoniously discarding Championship side Nottingham Forest from the Carling Cup. City last caused a cup upset way back in 1997, when a Chris Waddle driven team knocked Everton out of the FA Cup. City have previous with Forest though, knocking them out of the same competition in 1995 when they were flying high in the Premiership.
After Saturday’s dismal display at Shrewsbury, not many people believed an upset could be possible. Peter Taylor made seven changes to his team for the game, with an eye to test the rest of the squad who didn`t play on Saturday. Neither Gareth Evans, Tom Adeyemi nor Lewis Hunt were in the squad and summer signings Jake Speight, Louis Moult, Tommy Doherty, and Shane Duff were handed their full debuts. Omar Daley was handed a start on his return from suspension and Luke O`Brien slotted in at left back. There was the surprise inclusion of summer trialist David Syers, who was handed a place on the bench after signing non contract terms with the club.
The game began with City lining up in a more familiar 4-4-2 formation, a switch from the 4-3-3 employed at Shrewsbury. The game began and the defensive frailties of last season seemed a long way away as the back four was solid and calm on the ball. Despite a lot of Forest possession, few clear cut chances were made, and when they did break through the City defence, Jon McLaughlin could be called upon, including a world class save to deny Nathan Tyson one on one.
City were not without their chances, though. Daley, returning after his suspension carried over from the previous season, was getting joy down the left flank and creating chances when cutting in onto his right foot. Unfortunately for City many of his shots were wayward. Up front too, Jake Speight and Louis Moult were giving the Forest back line problems, particularly Wes Morgan, who would have been better suited playing up at Odsal with the way he dealt with Speight all night. Speight, who was very Cadamarteri-esque in his style of play, never stopped running and chasing all night, and if he keeps up that level of performance, his misdemeanours on signing for the club will be soon forgotten and the club will have a real player on their hands.
Midway through the half, Speight was again causing problems before he was cynically brought down again towards the right hand side of the box. From the resulting free kick, Steve Williams was first to the ball, but his header flew over the bar.
Forest, when they did get the ball down, looked a class apart. And it wasn`t long before they took the lead. A quick exchange of passes lead to the ball coming to Chris Cohen, whose left wing cross found Matt Thornhill in the box, who calmly volleyed the ball past the outstretched legs of Jon McLaughlin. For the rest of the first half, City found themselves on the back foot, as Forests superior ability was shown.
At the start of the second half, Taylor used all 3 of his substitutes, bringing on Simon Ramsden, David Syers and James Hanson for Scott Neilson, Omar Daley and Lee Bullock. A change of formation back to 4-3-3 accompanied this and it looked as if City would be going more direct in the second half. Forest could have quickly doubled their lead though, as Tyson turned the flat footed defence only to put his curling effort wide of the left hand post.
Jake Speight and Louis Moult had been causing the Forest defence problems all night, and a flick on from City`s other striker, James Hanson saw Jakes Speight through on goal. He managed to hold off two 6 foot defenders to get a shot away at goal, but Lee Camp managed to take the sting out of the ball. As it looked to be rolling out for a corner, David Syers sprinted past all 4 players and managed to flick the ball in from a tight angle to level the game for City.
City, backed by a vociferous support were obviously lifted by this. They went close again when Speight provided Moult with an opportunity which was eventually blocked. The game had become far more open now, and with City pressing, Forest could break quickly and City fans were left worried when through on goal, Dexter Blackstock rattled Jon McLaughlin right hand post. Both teams were going for the winner, and McLaughlin – who was now struggling with injury – was called upon again to stop another Forest effort in stoppage time,.
Neither team could find the break through and the game went into extra time. Both teams had chances and both keepers made saves before James Hanson fired City into a 2 -1 lead. Speight was cynically hacked down again on the edge of the box. Simon Ramsden stood up to take the free kick, and fired the ball in, similarly to the way Graeme Lee used to. Lee Camp made a good save but the rebound fell to Steve Williams, his effort was blocked on the line but fortunately City got a third bite at the cherry as Hanson guided the ball into the bottom left corner from 6 yards out.
The rest of the match was played out in a relatively calm fashion, but there was time for McLaughlin to make one more save. Forest had had a period of concerted pressure, and when the ball sat up for Chambers 6 yards out, he only needed to put his boot through it to equalise. And did he put his boot through it, but McLaughlin, still struggling with injury, flung himself at the ball and kept it out. It was a save that drew a standing ovation, not just from City fans, but Forest fans and Forest keeper Lee Camp too.
On this form, we best start booking hotels for Wembley……