Nahki inspires Bradford to victory
By Colin Thompson in London, England
Hot shot Nahki Wells produced a man of the match display to inspire Bradford City to an emphatic 3-0 victory over Northampton Town in the League Two play-off final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
The Bermudian striker was an integral part of the Bantams’ comfortable win, scoring his team’s third goal from close range and seventh in six appearances against a Cobblers side that were simply outclassed on the day.
Wells became the first Bermudian to score at the iconic stadium when he positioned himself in the right place at the right time at the back post to tap in Garry Thompson’s cross in the middle in the 28th minute to completely kill the game off.
His dazzling display, which earned him man of the match plaudits before a crowd of 47,127 fans, shone just as brightly as the florescent orange boots he wore for the big occasion.
Commenting on his historic strike, Wells told The Royal Gazette: “When I put it in the net it was a big relief because I knew the third was always going to be the killer blow. To score on the biggest days and important times … those are the ones that really stick.”
City manager Phil Parkinson added: “Nahki has been great and I have a lot of respect for him because he’s quite an athlete.
“He’s a very good finisher but he’s got a toughness about him as well. He can take criticism on the chin and responds the right way and has a hunger and desire to be the best he can.”
Wells’ clinical strike capped a dominant 30-minute opening spell that virtually swept the Cobblers off the spacious Wembley pitch.
In stark contrast to their defensive approach against Swansea in the League Cup final earlier this season at Wembley, City threw caution to the wind and went straight for the jugular which ultimately paid off.
Wells, the first Bermudian to play at the new Wembley Stadium, made his intentions known as early as the fourth minute when he curled a free kick from outside of the box over the bar.
The striker caused all sorts of problems to the Cobblers defence with his worrying pace, silky skills on the ball and superb running into space.
He linked up nicely alongside strike partner James Hanson who made the breakthrough for the Bantams in the 15th minute when his looping close range header found its intended target.
Hanson’s strike raised the decibel level among the City fans who were on their feet cheering again four minutes later when defender Rory McArdle scored with a text book header at the near post after hurling himself at Nathan Doyle’s cross.
Wells then put the result further beyond doubt when he buried his 26th goal of the season with aplomb to extend his impressive goal scoring record against a Cobblers side that once again paid the price for some loose defending.
His historic goal came just minutes after he had two efforts inside the box saved by Cobblers ‘keeper Lee Nicholls. Wells found himself in space in the 24th minute but shot tamely at the ‘keeper who was then forced to make a clutch save from point blank range to deny the striker three minutes later.
Wells threatened again in the 33rd minute when he broke away from the Cobblers last line of defence. But with only Nicholls to beat the 22-year old Bermuda international failed to connect cleanly and the chance went begging.
Not surprisingly, City took their foot off the throttle in the second half with chances to increase their lead now few and far apart.
Wells was subjected to some harsh treatment after the break as the Cobblers adopted a more physical approach to try and neutralise the striker’s threat.
The former Dandy Town man nearly went from goal scorer to provider in the 63rd minute when he burst down the right flank and sent in an inch perfect cross that teammate Kyel Reid volleyed wide of the target.
Wells also had a low drive inside the area comfortably saved by Nicholls who was once again exposed by a porous Cobblers defence.
By now City fans were already celebrating promotion to League One next season and every time Wells touched the ball the Bantams’ diehard supporters began chanting his name from the stands.
City fans also paid tribute to those who perished in the 1985 Valley Parade blaze, standing and applauding the victims in the 56th minute which was symbolic of the 56 killed in the tragedy.
Wells pulled up with cramp in the 73rd minute while challenging for an aerial ball and was subsequently substituted five minutes from the end of regulation, City fans showing their appreciation for his brilliant performance with a standing ovation as he proudly walked off the pitch with head held high.