npower League 2 play-off semi final 2nd leg action from the Pirelli StadiumBradford City chose the play-off semi-final second leg to record their first ever victory over the Brewers at Burton and with it secure their place in the League 2 Play-Off Final at Wembley on May 18th. A pulsating game had the expected roller coaster of emotions as it swung one way and then the other. Albion looked comfortable in the opening stages but a defensive error from Marcus Holness gifted Nahki Wells the first and when James Hanson fired in five minutes into the second period it put Bradford in control of their own destiny. Jacques Maghoma's penalty levelled the scores on aggregate but two minutes later it was Bradford with the two goal cushion again as Wells poached his second. Albion threw everything they could in the closing stages but Bradford held firm to deny Albion their day out at Wembley.
Gary Rowett opted to start the game with the same starting line-up as for the first leg on Thursday. Bradford meanwhile made three changes. Andrew Davies returned following suspension whilst Nathan Doyle and Kyel Reid returned to the starting line-up as the visitors looked to overturn the one goal deficit from the first tie.
Burton were quickly out of the traps and when Jacques Maghoma set his sights on goal with just 23 seconds on the clock it looked set for a cracking start but his low left foot shot from the edge of the area went just wide of Jon Mclaughlin's left hand post.
Bradford quickly countered and a neat ball inside found Nahki Wells inside the box but as soon as he turned Zander Diamond was there to block his shot out for a corner.
Calvin Zola had a half chance on seven minutes when a long throw found him inside the area and although it looked as if he was being manhandled by his marker he still managed to get a shot away albeit failing to trouble the keeper as it flew wide. Bradford quickly threw themselves forward again but from the edge of the area Kyel Reid fired spectacularly high and wide.
Damien McCrory was the next to forage forwards for the Albion cause and on seventeen minutes the left back almost cut open the Bradford defence, winning a couple of challenges before exchanging passes with Calvin Zola and crossing to the far post for Alex MacDonald who saw his header blocked in a packed six yard box.
Another chance came Albion's way on 23 minutes when a slick passing move forced a corner. Alex MacDonald flighted the ball in and Robbie Weir rose to make a towering header that McLaughlin had to stretch to pluck out of the air under his crossbar.
After all their good work the Brewers gifted their visitors the lead on 26 minutes. A hopeful long ball forward had Marcus Holness turning to face his own goal and the defender failed to get sufficient purchase on his header back to Stuart Tomlinson and Nahki WELLS nipped in to fire home. Suicidal defending from the Brewers.
There was another almighty scare on 29 minutes as Tomlinson came out to head clear and when the ball was returned with interest into the penalty area Wells went to ground and referee Scott pointed to the spot. With Albion hearts in mouths there was much relief when Scott consulted assistant Ian Dudley to change his mind and award Albion a free kick for offside.
As Burton tried to clear their heads they came under more pressure but James Meredith fired over the bar from the edge of the area with Bradford looking to turn the game completely on its head.
Burton responded well and Robbie Weir forced an excellent stop from McLaughlin on 37 minutes latching onto a knock down from Zola before firing towards goal from the edge of the area.
Neither side could quite generate the quality to get a goal just before the break that would change the half time team talks but after one minute of stoppage time referee Graham Scott brought the half to a close giving both benches time to get into their players for the second forty five minutes.
Half time: Burton Albion 0-1 Bradford City
Five minutes into the second half and the game was turned completely on its head as Bradford scored a second. A long ball forward had Albion in trouble and although there appeared to be an elbow on Marcus Holness from Wells the referee played on and the ball came to James HANSON who fired unerringly low into the bottom far corner of Tomlinson's net.
Three minutes later and Albion were handed a lifeline. A surging run from MAGHOMA to him just inside the box when Garry Thompson felled him in full flow and after a moment to consider his decision referee Scott pointed to the spot. Bookings followed for McLaughlin and midfielder Nathan Doyle before Albion's leading scorer stepped up to smash the ball home.
Two minutes had passed and with Albion voices still in full cry Bradford scored again. A long free kick into the area was headed down by Hanson and WELLS turned to scuff a shot towards goal that Tomlinson got a hand to but could not stop from nestling in the bottom corner.
In between the goals Albion brought on Billy Kee for Marcus Holness reverting to a 4-4-2 formation and the change almost brought an instant reward as Kee and Zola worked the ball out wide to MacDonald whose well struck shot was deflected out for a corner.
Bradford were close to another goal on 66 minutes when Albion needlessly conceded a corner and a heavily bandaged Andrew Davies planted a back post header wide of the upright.
It was a tense and pulsating atmosphere and when both Hanson and Tomlinson went for the same ball on seventy minutes there was a monumental collision just inside the box as the Albion keeper cleared and then got clattered by the Bradford striker who lay prostrate for some while afterwards.
Calvin Zola lasted until the 73rd minute when he had to be replaced by Michael Symes. Then with ten minutes to go Rowett threw on Jimmy Phillips for John McGrath. Moments later and Albion came as close as they could do without scoring. Alex MacDonald swung in a free kick that found its way to the back post where Billy Kee's close range header was saved at point blank range by McLaughlin.
The visitors wasted a glorious chance to put the game to bed on 85 minutes. Wells scampered away down the right and his deflected cross fell perfectly for Hanson but the striker got it all wrong and fired well over the crossbar.
Albion threw everything they had left at Bradford in the closing stages with Zander Diamond going close amid a penalty area scramble and Alex MacDonald fired a late free kick over the bar in added time but ultimately the Brewers could not quite get the goal to take the game to extra time and extend their chances of a trip to Wembley.
From a side tipped for relegation at the start of the season it was still a remarkable end to the campaign which will leave Albion - players and supporters alike, desperate for more of the same next season.
BURTON: Tonlinson; O'Connor, Sharps, Holness, McCrory; Diamond; MacDonald, Weir, McGrath, Maghoma; Zola. Substitutes: Webster, Lyness, Phillips, Paterson, Drury, Kee, Symes.
BRADFORD: McLaughlin; Darby, McArdle, Davies, Meredith; Thompson, Jones, Doyle, Reid; Hanson, Wells. Substitutes: Ravenhill, Duke, Atkinson, McHugh, Connell, Hines, Nelson.
Referee: Mr G.Scott (Oxfordshire)
GOALS: Burton - Maghoma (55 pen); Bradford - Wells (26, 57), Hanson (50)