JUST what is it about Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City and cup ties against opposition from a higher division?
Since succeeding Peter Jackson a little over 15 months ago, the Bantams manager has presided over eight victories against teams from the Premier League, Championship and League One in a variety of competitions.
But for the width of a post, that tally would stand at nine this morning with Brentford grateful that Nahki Wells’s late shot bounced to safety off the inside of an upright and not into the net, ensuring the clubs will meet again on December 18 to decide who wins a place in the FA Cup third round.
Had City’s 14-goal top scorer managed to squeeze in his effort then Brentford could have felt aggrieved to lose a tie that, until a triple substitution by Parkinson just after the hour, they had looked firmly on course to win.
But there can also be little doubt that the strong manner in which the Bantams finished the game following the introduction of Wells, Gary Jones and Will Atkinson from the bench meant the hosts were fully deserving of another crack at the League One Bees.
Whether Bradford can finish the job remains to be seen. But bearing in mind their record in cup football under Parkinson, few would surely bet against it being City’s name that remains in the FA Cup come the New Year as opposed to that of the London outfit.
Certainly, the likes of Wigan Athletic and Watford this season plus both Sheffield clubs and Huddersfield Town last term will attest to the battling spirit of Bradford when taking on opposition from a higher division.
A replay, of course, is the last thing Parkinson will have wanted in an already packed schedule that sees City travel to Port Vale in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday night and then host Arsenal a week later in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
But, considering how in control the Bees had seemed after taking the lead through Clayton Donaldson three minutes before the break, the Bradford chief will surely just be happy to still be in tomorrow’s third-round draw.
Bradford-born Donaldson finished with aplomb to light up a first half that had produced little to keep the 3,620 crowd warm on a freezing Yorkshire night.
Going behind was harsh on City, who while failing to create much of note themselves had managed to muzzle Brentford just as effectively.
Matt Duke had been called on to make a routine save from Harry Forrester’s long-range effort seven minutes before Donaldson’s strike, but that was all the City goalkeeper had to do in a first half that saw Duke’s opposite number, Richard Lee, similarly untroubled with the Bantams’ best opening seeing Alan Connell’s shot charged down by Toumani Diagouraga.
Brentford continued to look the more likely to find the net when the second half got underway as Donaldson headed wide from Sam Saunders’s corner.
Duke then had to be at his best to keep out a fierce shot from the Bees striker after he had expertly turned James Meredith eight yards from goal.
Parkinson’s response was to bring on a trio of rested first-choice players as Jones, Nahki Wells and Atkinson took to the field.
Within 20 seconds, Wells had fashioned an opening with neat footwork only then to curl a shot wide.
Atkinson then underlined his threat with a fine left-wing cross that had goalkeeper Lee grasping at fresh air as James Hanson strained to meet the ball at the back post.
Lee fared better with his next involvement, a fine block to deny Wells after the Bantams’ top scorer had latched on to Hanson’s header to bring the home fans among the crowd belatedly to their feet.
Those same fans were celebrating 19 minutes from time when Hanson equalised with a rifled low shot that gave the Bees goalkeeper no chance after his team-mates had been unable to clear a teasing right-wing cross.
Buoyed to be back on level terms and by now firmly in the ascendancy, City poured forward in search of a winner.
First, Gary Jones fired just over the crossbar from 20 yards after the Brentford defence had again been unable to cope with a sweeping Bradford attack.
Hanson did the same 15 minutes from time after holding off a physical challenge from Diagouraga.
With the home side appearing in such firm control, the Bees did at least underline the danger of believing the tie was Bradford’s to win when Shaleum Logan brought another smart save from Duke.
Wells, though, then went agonisingly close to snatching a dramatic victory with a shot that struck the inside of a post after his lightning pace had again left the visitors’ defence trailing.
An inch-perfect tackle by Diagouraga inside the six-yard box then prevented Wells from firing in the rebound to ensure City’s cup odyssey continues.
Bradford City: Duke; Darby, McArdle, Good, Meredith; Turgott, Doyle, Ravenhill (G Jones 61), Thompson (Atkinson 61); Hanson, Connell (Wells 61). Unused substitutes: McLaughlin, R Jones, McHugh, Baker.
Brentford: Lee; Logan, Craig, Dean, Bidwell; Forshaw, Saunders (Barron 70), Diagouraga, Forrester (Dallas 76); Hayes (German 82), Donaldson. Unused substitutes: Moore, Redwood, Oyeleke, Pierre.
Referee: G Sutton (Lincoln).