Cobblers' Wembley Heartbreak
19 May 2013, 06:48
Northampton Town's footballers are licking their wounds after a 3-0 defeat in their Wembley League Two play-off final against Bradford City.
Goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and leading scorer Nahki Wells settled the contest inside half an hour. The match was watched by around 25,000 Cobblers fans.
Northampton Town failed to get to grips with the occasion.
Bradford settled quicker and after hogging possession were rewarded for their early composure with the game's opening goal in the 15th minute.
Northampton failed to clear Kyel Reid's cross adequately and when the ball broke on the right edge of the penalty area, Garry Thompson picked out Hanson at the far post and the big striker guided his header over stranded Cobblers goalkeeper Lee Nicholls into the net.
Northampton had hardly got a foothold in the game when the West Yorkshire club doubled their lead four minutes later.
This time Nathan Doyle's fine first-time cross to the near post was met by McArdle, who stole in ahead of a flat-footed defence to head powerfully home.
Boothroyd's boys were being over-run by a City side playing like they had been here before and when Wells headed home their third goal in the 28th minute, the contest appeared over.
Thompson again played a key role, heading the ball back across goal following Reid's cross for an unmarked Wells to volley home his 26th goal of the season and his eighth in as many games.
Roy Donovan headed a rare chance wide for the Cobblers towards the end of the first half and Clarke Carlisle was just off target with a similar effort before the interval, but Northampton looked crestfallen as they headed down the tunnel.
There was no let-up from Bradford after the restart and only a finger-tip save from Nicholls denied the Bantams a fourth goal after Clarke's attempted clearance had rebounded goalwards off Hanson.
Northampton substitutes Joe Widdowson and Adebayo Akinfenwa replaced Lee Collins and Platt, but the dye was cast as City continued to carry the greater threat.
City fans paid tribute to the 56 fans who lost their lives at Valley Parade in 1985 with cheers and applause in the 56th minute, one week after the fire disaster's 28th anniversary.
Reid fluffed his lines soon after when misdirecting a cross from Wells off target and the latter forced Nicholls into another save with a low shot as City began to enjoy themselves.
Akinfenwa's tame header at the end of a rare foray forward summed up the Cobblers' disappointment and City cruised through the closing stages to spark joyous scenes of celebration among their fans.