Bradford City 0 Preston North End 4 - Falling at first hurdle is new norm for 2013 finalists

BE IT the scintillating run to the 2013 final or the night when neighbours Leeds United came a cropper at a bouncing Valley Parade, Bradford City supporters have plenty of cause to look fondly on the League Cup.
Bradford's Connor Wood struck the crossbar (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)Bradford's Connor Wood struck the crossbar (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Bradford's Connor Wood struck the crossbar (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

What those never-to-be-forgotten victories tend to camouflage, however, is just how wretchedly poor the Bantams’ recent record has been in a competition now sponsored by energy drink Carabao.

In 14 of the past 18 seasons, City have lacked the fizz to negotiate their way past even the first-round stage.

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Their last victory, in fact, is the 2015 win over Leeds with York City, Accrington Stanley, Macclesfield Town and Doncaster Rovers all having got the better of Bradford since that famous derby triumph. Preston North End can now be added to that list after a straight-forward victory for the Championship side.

Alex Neil manager of Preston North End  (Picture: Lewis Storey/Getty Images)Alex Neil manager of Preston North End  (Picture: Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
Alex Neil manager of Preston North End (Picture: Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Two goals to the good before a quarter of the game had elapsed, Alex Neil’s side did have the odd anxious moment early in the second half with Connor Wood striking the crossbar.

But, overall, League Two Bradford could have few complaints at being made to wait at least another year to once again savour a victory in this competition.

Anthony O’Connor, one of only three to also start last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Grimsby Town, had a nightmare that contrasted sharply with his impressive display at Blundell Park.

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The City defender was far from alone in having an off night with only Wood, Danny Devine and –in the first half – Sean Scannell of the eight changes made by Bowyer making any sort of case to be involved against Oldham Athletic this weekend.

Gary Bowyer, the Bantams manager, had spoken glowingly during the build-up about the job done at Deepdale by Neil, the City chief pointing out that the XI on duty would be Championship standard no matter how many changes his North End counterpart made. In the end, Neil made the maximum 11 changes to the side that cruised past Wigan and, as Bowyer had suggested, Preston barely missed a beat.

The visitors were ahead inside 14 minutes via a thunderous volley from Andre Green, the Aston Villa loanee having shown great anticipation to nip in front of Tyler French to meet a Tom Clarke cross that Anthony O’Connor was unable to cut out.

Tom Barkhuizen doubled Preston’s advantage five minutes later with another crisp finish. Ryan Ledson this time was the creator, his deft pass allowing the wideman to nip ahead of Anthony O’Connor.

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In between, Bradford were cut open almost at will and were thankful to some profligate finishing on the part of the visitors.

First, Brad Potts fired high and wide when well placed. Then, Tom Bayliss burst forcefully into the area only to be halted by a challenge before Jayden Stockley headed wide from a corner.

Stockley also denied team-mate Green what looked a certain goal by getting in the way of a fearsome shot as the City defence once again proved unable to cope with Preston’s crisp passing style.

City fans in the 3,456 crowd had to wait until first-half stoppage time to see their side trouble Connor Ripley. Even then, Jermaine Anderson’s shot was tame.

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There was an all too brief bright start to the second half from the hosts, as Wood curled a shot against the bar and Devine shot narrowly over.

But, before long, Preston had re-established their superiority. Barkhuizen made it 3-0, accepting a gift from O’Connor as the City defender committed the cardinal sin of trying to pass the ball straight across the edge of a crowded penalty area.

Josh Harrop added a fourth less than 60 seconds after being brought off the bench by Neil. He collected a pass 25 yards from goal before hitting a shot that took a horrible deflection off O’Connor to loop over the helpless Hornby.

Further punishment was avoided so City did at least avoid the ignominy of a heaviest defeat in the League Cup since that Wembley final against Swansea City. Nevertheless, this was a miserable night for the Bantams on a par with those embarrassing exits against York and Macclesfield.

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Bradford City: Horby; French, A O’Connor, P O’Connor, Longridge; Akpan; Scannell (Patrick 73), Devine (Colville 73), Anderson, Wood; Doyle. Unused substitutes: O’Donnell, Mellor, Richards-Everton, Donaldson, Palmer.

Preston North End: Ripley; Browne, Storey, Clarke, Rafferty; Ledson, Bayliss; Barkhuizen, Potts (Walker 80), Green (Ginnelly 72); Stockley (Harrop 70). Unused substitutes: Crowe, Pearson, Davies, Maguire.

Referee: M Donohue (Lancashire).