Bradford City 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1: Bitter way to miss out on Wembley as Bantams dominate but come out late losers

So unloved is the Football League Trophy that normally going out of it produces a shrug of the shoulders at best, a sigh of relief at worst. Not when you are one game from Wembley, though.

For 90 minutes, Bradford City produced a performance on a difficult pitch that had everything but the goals it deserved, then one mistake from Sam Stubbs, who had until then been having a good night, allowed Wycombe Wanderers their second shot on target of the night.

Substitute Mark Butcher made the most of it to set up an April date with Peterborough United.

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Defeats do not come much crueller but rather than wallow in self-pity, Bradford will have to reflect on the fact they had 19 chances to do something about it, but failed to capitalise on any of them.

GUTTED: Bradford City captain Richie Smallwood consoles Sam StubbsGUTTED: Bradford City captain Richie Smallwood consoles Sam Stubbs
GUTTED: Bradford City captain Richie Smallwood consoles Sam Stubbs

If only Andy Cook had not been sent off in the quarter-finals or Jake Young had been fit.

It is a good job the Premier League udner-21 sides are long since gone from the competition because after a day of rain in West Yorkshire, the game was played on a pitch that would have given the cosseted colts a coronary and shocked any fans under the age of 20, but would not have raised a shrug in the 20th Century.

The grass-splattered mud did not cause Bradford many problems, with former Premier League midfielder Kevin McDonald showing his class whenever on the ball.

As a result, the Bantams totally dominated the game.

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EARLY CHANCE: Bradford City striker Tyler SmithEARLY CHANCE: Bradford City striker Tyler Smith
EARLY CHANCE: Bradford City striker Tyler Smith

They could have scored with a minute on the clock, Tyler Smith released by a ball over the top but perhaps with too much time to think about it, shot at Max Stryjek.

It would not be the tournament's top scorer night.

Clarke Odour cut in on his left a minute later and ballooned a shot. He would catch one much better about 10 minutes later but just failed to direct it under the bar.

The excellent Calum Kavanagh was a good runner for the passes too, shooting wide after picking up a second ball, then very nearly playing Smith in.

NICE TRY: Brad Halliday connects with an Alex Gilliead cross but fails to direct itNICE TRY: Brad Halliday connects with an Alex Gilliead cross but fails to direct it
NICE TRY: Brad Halliday connects with an Alex Gilliead cross but fails to direct it

Wing-back Brad Halliday had a shot blocked after good work by Odour and Smith, and acrobatically stretched to an Alex Gillead cross, but was unable to trouble the goalkeeper from it.

McDonald hit a couple of shots into defenders.

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All the while the Chairboys offered nothing until Sam Stubbs stopped a Duke Taylor effort from Gareth McCleary's cross finding the net after 44 minutes.

This being a competition that inspires anything from apathy to hostility (because of those under-21 sides) right up until the final, the attendances was always going to be low but the way the 6,903 – the bulk of them packed into the lower section of the Kop – were whipped up by the way the home side started the second half.

PITCH BATTLE: Bradford City groundstaff work on the Valley Parade pitch before kick-offPITCH BATTLE: Bradford City groundstaff work on the Valley Parade pitch before kick-off
PITCH BATTLE: Bradford City groundstaff work on the Valley Parade pitch before kick-off

Rather than disrupting them, Ciaran Kelly's injury right at the start just gave them another outlet down the left, where full-back Liam Ridehalgh picked an ideal day to play in the back three.

Not that Gilliead needed much help, even running up and down the stickiest part of the pitch.

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Stryjek had to stick out a right boot to stop Smith scoring, Stubbs' effort from the corner was blocked and Gilliead shot over.

Oduor played a lovely ball to Halliday, who thought he had picked out Kavanagh, only to see the ball nicked away at the last minute.

McDonald curled a shot wide, Kavanagh and Smith had shots saved on the turn, Oduour put couple of efforts off target, and Smith just failed to connect with a Ridehalgh cross. Kavanagh had a free-kick beaten away.

Kavanagh had a great headed chance from Richie Smallwood's deep cross 78 minutes in but Stryjek saved, his team-mates scrambled the ball clear.

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Then Colin Doyle then had to remind us he was playing, getting his kid muddy to keep out Gareth McCleary's effort from a deep cross by Jack Grimmer.

Bradford cannot say they were not warned.

And just as the fourth official put up his board to say that there was a minimum of five minutes between the two teams and a penalty shoot-out, Wycombe came good on their threat.

Richard Kone robbed Stubbs in possession and set up fellow substitute Butcher to deliver the blow that most of the more grizzled, cynical supporters would have been expecting, having seen their team play so well without reward.

Bobby Pointon and Harry Chapman were sent on for more defensive players in a late desperate attempt to change things. Chapman slid onto a cross put could only direct it at Stryjek and his limped away Tom Reeves blew the final whistle.

It was not to be.

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Bitter Sweet Symphony played on the tannoy as the stadium emptied. Well, it was half-right.

Bradford City: Doyle; Tomkinson (Chapman 90+4), Stubbs, Kelly (Ridehalgh 47); Halliday, Smallwood (Pointon 90+4), McDonald,Gilliead; Oduor, Kavanagh; Smith (Wright 75).

Unused substitutes: Derbyshire, Wadsworth, Hadi.

Wycombe Wanderers: Stryjek; Grimmer, Low, Tafazolli, Leahy; Scowen (Butcher 65), Potts; Wheeler (Vincent-Young 55), Taylor (Lonwijk 85), McCleary; Vokes (Kone 55).

Unused substitutes: Jacobson, Ravizzoli, McCarthy.

Referee: T Reeves (Warwickshire).

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