English League Two: Northampton Town 0 Bradford City 3
By Football News
Bradford City secured their first promotion in 14 years with a 3-0 win over Northampton Town in the League Two play-off final on Saturday.
Phil Parkinson's side, who lost 5-0 to Swansea City on their last visit to Wembley in this season's League Cup final, hit three goals in 13 first-half minutes to ensure they will be playing League One football next season.
James Hanson nodded in the first after 15 minutes, with Rory McArdle's diving header doubling Bradford's advantage before Nakhi Wells rubbed salt in Northampton's wounds with a close-range finish inside the opening 30 minutes.
Bradford had further opportunities to extend their lead in the second half but Northampton's desire to avoid a rout ensured the game ended 3-0.
Regardless, City's win ensured they will return to the third tier of English football for the first time since 2007 next season, and rounded off a memorable season for the Valley Parade outfit.
Aidy Boothroyd's team selection provided an early shock ahead of kick-off, as striker Clive Platt was handed his first start in nine games while Ade Akinfenwa was left on the bench. Bradford, however, remained unchanged from their win over Burton Albion at the semi-final stage.
Much had been made of Bradford having already experienced the pressure of a Wembley final earlier in the season, and following a scrappy opening the Yorkshire side underlined the strength of that argument.
A cross from the left-hand side missed everyone in the Northampton box but Garry Thompson showed a cool head to collect the ball and chip in to the far post.
Hanson did the honours from thereon in, producing an unbeatable leap and directing his header beyond the sprawling dive of Lee Nicholls.
And City fans were in dreamland as their side extended that lead with just 19 minutes on the clock. Another cross from the right, this time from Nathan Doyle, was nodded in powerfully by a diving McArdle at the near post to leave Northampton's hopes in tatters early on.
Parkinson's team had made the sort of start they surely dreamed of ahead of their ultimately unsuccessful League Cup final appearance in February, but even they could not have imagined being 3-0 up by the 28th minute.
Thompson was the creator for the second time, causing trouble on Northampton's frail left-hand side and nodding across the box for Wells to emphatically volley in his 26th goal of the season from close range to take Bradford in 3-0 up at the break.
Boothroyd seemingly acknowledged that he had made a mistake in selection as he introduced Akinfenwa for Platt, and Joe Widdowson for Lee Collins early in the second period.
That did not facilitate a change in fortunes, however, with Nicholls' wonder save from Hanson indicative of Bradford's continuing dominance.
Town admittedly showed greater resilience as the game reached its conclusion, but they were largely helped by Bradford's acceptance that the game had already been won.
And that was acknowledged by Parkinson with five minutes remaining as he withdrew Wells, the talisman for his team this season, to rapturous applause at Wembley.