Carlisle United 3-1 Bradford City (agg 3-2): Home team books a place in the League Two play-off final
Carlisle United 3-1 Bradford City (3-2 agg): Ben Barclay’s header in extra time seals the date for the home team with Stockport in the League Two play-off final
- Stockport on loan Barclay won’t feature in final after scoring winner
- An own goal from Brad Halliday started the Carlisle United charge
- Goals from Anthony Guy and Matt Derbyshire kept the tie until the last goal
There is a banner at Brunton Park with a caricature of manager Paul Simpson balancing the League Two trophy over his head, reading “Simmo is our king”.
Sixteen years after winning promotion to League One as player-manager, Simpson is one game away from completing a remarkable replay, after Carlisle overturned a first-leg deficit to beat Bradford and book their place at Wembley next Sunday.
The play-off drama has simply been unrivaled this season. Brad Halliday’s own goal leveled the tie here and despite a relatively dry 90 minutes, both teams scored in extra time before Ben Barclay’s 112th-minute winner.
Barclay, on loan from Stockport, will miss out on parent club County in the final but will become a hero to Carlisle for guiding them to a fifth Wembley appearance in their 118-year history.
However, no one deserves that legendary status more than Simpson. Born in Carlisle, the manager brought his boyhood club back from the brink with back-to-back Conference promotions in his first spell and, 17 years after leaving, he is one game out of League One again.
Ben Barclay (centre left) may have been Carlisle United’s hero of the moment, but he won’t be able to repeat the feat in the final.
Owen Moxon (left) and Taylor Charters being held up by fans after the home side booked their final against Stockport
Bradford City led the first leg 1-0 but could not find the equalizer needed to send the clash back to penalties.
The 56-year-old, who has also played for Manchester City and Derby as a player, dropped himself out of the League after leaving Carlisle in 2006, including stints with Northwich Victoria and Sunday’s opponents Stockport.
His team bested Mark Hughes’ Bradford here. The Welshman has also gone down a notch – it’s only 15 years since he was City boss who signed Robinho for a British record fee – and he’s enjoying life in the Bantams. But his team never appeared in the first leg.
Bradford goalkeeper Harry Lewis did well to keep Carlisle out early on before John Kymani-Gordon claimed a goal to level the tie, though it was awarded as an own goal by Halliday.
Carlisle was the better team and was fueled by a strong crowd of 15,401, more than double their innings average this season.
Brad Halliday’s own goal sparked Carlisle United’s comeback at home
Halliday tangled with his goalkeeper Harry Lewis after messing with his opponents in the match.
Callum Guy was the first Carlisle player on the team sheet after breaking the tie in the first half of extra time.
But Matt Derbyshire (in focus) kept the visitors in the hunt with his own goal 10 minutes later.
Bradford, for his part, barely threatened Tomas Holy’s goal, with a single shot on goal in regulation time. It seemed that both teams were afraid to risk throwing too many men forward.
But if the 90 minutes were a bit disappointing, extra time produced the kind of must-see drama that has been the theme of these play-offs. Callum Guy, who spent time on loan at Bradford, scored in the 98th minute, but the Bantams then equalized in the 106th minute.
The goal came from 37-year-old Matt Derbyshire just six minutes after Hughes brought it in from the bench and for the first time in this game the Welsh side looked dangerous.
But Carlisle refused to let this match fade into a penalty shootout and Barclay’s header sealed the trip to Wembley in the 112th minute.
CARLISLE UNITED 3-1 BRADFORD CITY (AGG 3-2): MATCH DATA
Carlisle United (3-4-1-2): Holy, Barclay, Huntingdon, Whelan (Robinson 120+4′), Senior (Gibson 91′), Guy, Moxon, Armer, McCalmont (Patrick 70′), Garner (Edmonson 65′), Gordon (Charters 70′)
Unused Subs: Kelly, Dennis
Reserved: Armer, Garner, Guy
Goals: Boy, Barclay
Bradford City (4-3-1-2): Lewis, Halliday, Stubbs, Crichlow, Ridehalgh, Gilliead (East 69′), Clayton (Osadebe 69′), Smallwood, Walker (Derbshire 100′), Cook, Banks (Platt 108′)
Unused Subs: Doyle, Nevers, Pereira
Goals: Halliday (OG), Derbyshire
After the final whistle, the visitors saw their dreams of promotion crumble before their eyes
But the celebrations were in full swing at Brunton Park, with goalkeeper Tomas Holy in the midst of the melee on the pitch.
Supporters flooded the ground full time determined to celebrate before preparing for a trip to Wembley next weekend.