PENALTY shoot-out hero Matt Duke has dedicated Bradford City’s shock Capital One Cup victory over Premier League Wigan Athletic to the club’s long-suffering supporters, who turned out in their thousands at the DW Stadium.
Sheffield-born Duke, 35, claimed the bouquets after saving Jordi Gomez’s penalty to seal a 4-2 spot-kick triumph over the Latics, as penalty kings City extended their streak of shoot-out successes to a magnificent seven.
But the former Hull City custodian was eager to share the praise with his team-mates and the 5,000-strong travelling army, whose ear-splitting ‘12th man’ support was constant all evening.
Admitting the win was the best of his Bantams career, Duke – who suffered some dark days at Hull when he underwent an operation to remove a testicular tumour in 2008 – said: “It is certainly the highlight of my time at Bradford. It has been a bit of a rocky road and to win at a Premier League club is just great.
“But more than anything, the fans deserved something like that as they have been through some bad times after the Premier League days. Going from the Premier to League Two is not great.
“Hopefully, we can start building and get the club back up the leagues and have some more great days out. Let’s hope we can bring some good times back to Bradford.
“The fans will talk about Tuesday night for years and it will provide some fantastic memories.
“The lads dug in on the pitch and the fans did their bit on the side. When you see so many people turning up after long days at work and fighting the traffic to get here, it is not easy. But they came in such numbers.”
Duke admitted City fancied their chances once the game went to penalties given their impressive recent sequence. Nathan Doyle, Gary Jones, Stephen Darby and Alan Connell were coolness personified as they scored from the spot.
City, 59 places below Wigan in the Football League, thoroughly deserved their shoot-out opportunity after an outstanding display of defensive organisation all over the pitch for 120 minutes. They upset the formbook to take their place in the quarter-finals of the League Cup for the first time in 24 years in their landmark 150th game in the competition.
The win was all the more remarkable, given the fact that first-choice centre-backs Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies were missing, with the likes of Carl McHugh and Rory McArdle stepping up with immense displays.
Duke has been an ever-present in City’s thrilling cup adventure despite currently playing second fiddle to Jon McLaughlin in League Two games. Duke added: “We always fancied ourselves with penalties and took great ones. As a keeper, you always fancy yourself to save at least one in the five.
“But the lads were fantastic. We set our stall out to make it difficult for Wigan and everyone down to strikers – who chased down balls and worked their socks off – did their bit. It just shows what a good squad we have got with the likes of Carl McHugh coming in and doing a fantastic job. You could not ask any more.”
Thrilled manager Phil Parkinson admits Tuesday night’s stunning victory was right up there among his proudest moments as a manager, while insisting the result was no fluke with his side never intending to head over the Pennines just to make up the numbers.
On the win over the Latics, whose line-up on the pitch at the end of extra-time cost around £24m, Parkinson said: “It is right up there for me. Getting promotion with Colchester on the final day of the (2005-06) season was a great day, while we went to Chelsea with them as well, which was incredible.
“But to come to a Premier League club with a depleted team and win has got to be one of the best.”
Praising the display of Duke, he added: “The coolness of the penalties was great and obviously Dukey made the big save at the end and I was delighted for him.
“He has been out of the team and been unfortunate not to be in. But he has worked as our goalkeeper coach and worked extremely hard on the training ground and never let his professionalism dip at all. It is good for him to have his moment of glory.”