PRACTICE makes perfect. Or so the old saying goes, with Bradford City’s amazing record in penalty shoot-outs suggesting that may not quite be the case.
The Bantams have won their last nine shoot-outs and should today’s League Two play-off final not be settled inside two hours then there will not be many betting against Phil Parkinson’s men prevailing on penalties.
Considering how adept Bradford have been from 12 yards since edging out Sven Goran Eriksson’s Notts County in October, 2009, the public perception is that the squad spend hours practicing penalties in training.
The reality, however, could not be more different with Parkinson, instead, restricting his players to just a single spot-kick on the eve of games that can be decided by penalties. It is a practice the City manager followed again yesterday when the squad trained at St George’s Park, Burton.
“That’s our secret,” admits captain Gary Jones. “We are told to pick our spot in training and, if it comes down to penalties the next day, you don’t change your mind.”
No team has come close to emulating what Bradford have achieved since that first shoot-out triumph when former England coach Eriksson was in the away dugout at Valley Parade.
At one stage, City actually trailed by two penalties but, in the end, Kasper Schmeichel was the unfortunate fall guy as his spot-kick was blocked by the legs of Simon Eastwood to signal a Yorkshire triumph.
A quite remarkable run, which has seen 29 players step up to the plate and 35 of City’s 46 penalties successfully converted, was under way.
Port Vale were the club’s second victims a month later when Eastwood, one of three goalkeepers to feature, made three saves.
Sheffield Wednesday were the next to fall after missing three of their four penalties after a goalless draw at Valley Parade in August, 2011.
It began a remarkable run of three shoot-out triumphs in as many months with Bradford, by now under the stewardship of Parkinson, added Sheffield United and Huddersfield to their list of Johnstone’s Paint Trophy scalps.
The same competition brought City’s next penalty triumph as Jon McLaughlin saved Evan Horwood’s effort to condemn Hartlepool United to defeat in October, 2012.
Just 21 days later, Bradford’s habit of prevailing in shoot-outs bust into the nation’s conscience courtesy of a remarkable finale at the JJB Stadium.
After holding Premier League Wigan Athletic to a goalless draw, Parkinson’s men triumphed thanks to Matt Duke keeping out Jordi Gomez’s effort.
A fortnight later, Northampton went the way of the Latics as City again prevailed 4-2 before Arsenal were humbled in the Capital One Cup quarter-final.
Gary Jones, Nathan Doyle and Alan Connell were among those to convert from 12 yards against the Gunners, meaning the trio are – of the 10 to take more than one spot-kick during Bradford’s record-breaking run – the City players who boast 100 per cent success rates.