Bradford City swept aside Brentford at Valley Parade with a four-goal display, writes Robert Gledhill.
Bradford were aiming to end the unbeaten run of the side that knocked them out of the FA Cup in unusual circumstances last season.
City drew 1-1 with Brentford in the second round but were thrown out of the competition for fielding ineligible Newcastle loanee Curtis Good. The Bantams successfully appealed against the decision but lost 4-2 in extra-time in the replay.
Marcello Trotta scored twice before being the central figure in a dramatic last-day of the season showdown at Doncaster when his stoppage-time penalty struck the bar and Rovers raced to the other end and scored to clinch the title, leaving the Bees to ultimately endure a 2-1 play-off final defeat against Yeovil.
The teams came into today’s encounter at Valley Parade in contrasting moods, City having suffered a 5-0 JP Trophy defeat at Hartlepool in midweek while Brentford won 5-3 against AFC Wimbledon.
With Rory McArdle away on Northern Ireland duty, Luke Oliver made a welcome return to the heart of the City defence after 11 months out due to a ruptured Achilles injury. Oliver lined up alongside Andrew Davies, who missed the Hartlepool game.
Strikers James Hanson and Nahki Wells also returned to action after being rested in midweek as did goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin as City made seven changes.
City got a lift when Brentford goalkeeper David Button was sent off in the 26th minute for clattering Wells on the right-hand corner of the area as the striker chased a through ball. Trotta was sacrificed as Jack Bonham took over in goal.
Wells had already gone close, chasing down a back-pass and seeing Button’s clearance rebound off him over the bar.
City took advantage as left-back James Meredith surged down the flank before cutting the ball back for Hanson to fire into the roof of the of the net to make it 1-0 in the 41st minute.
Wells was left with a simple tap-in on the hour mark as Tony Craig headed Jon McLaughlin’s long punt over substitute goalkeeper Bonham, who had rushed off his line.
It became three goals inside nine minutes when Hanson headed home at the far post from Kyel Reid’s corner to make it 4-0 and Bradford then rested Wells, bringing on Alan Connell.