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MANAGER: I feel like I've been through the mill

More from Paul Simpson on the Saturday victory

21 May 2023

Club News

MANAGER: I feel like I've been through the mill

More from Paul Simpson on the Saturday victory

21 May 2023

It was yet another day of high drama as Bradford and United went head-to-head for the right to face Stockport at Wembley next Sunday, with promotion to League One the ultimate prize.

Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: Bradford po2

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The Blues got the all-important first goal, but they had to go to extra time and net twice more to secure their place in the showcase final.

Speaking after the game, manager Paul Simpson said: “Oh wow, what a game, what an occasion. Credit to both sets of players, credit to both sets of supporters, because that was a proper football game.

“Those are the sorts of game you dream of when you’re a kid and you want to be involved in it. I had so much belief in the group that we were going to get ourselves over the line, even though we were a goal down.

“I really felt that if we could start on the front foot and we could be positive we had enough energy about us, and they’ve really gone and performed for us.

“They’ve produced a performance that’s got us a result against a really good Bradford City side and I’m sweating buckets here because I feel as if I’ve gone through the mill myself.

“There are some tired heads and legs in there, but tiredness doesn’t half go quickly when you’re looking forward to an occasion like we’ve got on our plate next weekend.”

Pundits and fans alike agreed that it was the best team over the two legs who had earned the next step.

“I think we have been,” he agreed. “I’m going to say the first half, or little patches of the first 25 minutes at Valley Parade, they were easily the better side.

“We weren’t good enough. I think in this game we’ve shown what we can do, we’ve played some good football, we’ve created chances, scored goals, and showed character.

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GALLERY: A very jubilant dressing room

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“We had to, because it was a bit of a body blow to concede a goal so soon after the restart of play in extra time. But a lot of things were good about the whole day.

“The atmosphere was magnificent. We want to get this all the time. This is what I came back for, I wanted to be involved in this sort of stuff, and I think the city, the whole area, the fans, the football club, everybody, has pulled together to produce a day like this.

“We were live on Sky TV, we did it well, and it sets us up for another one next week.”

On the importance of the first goal of the day, bagged by the Cumbrians in the first half, he told us: “The first goal was massive, absolutely massive. You’re 2-0 down or it’s 1-1 on the tie, that’s the difference it makes.

“We knew our home advantage could be in our favour, and we knew that if we were right and if our performance was right that we’d have enough and, like I say, we really did have that belief.

“When we got a good start and we kept prodding and probing, I’m just delighted with everybody. It’s been a really long season, a brilliant season, and now we’ve extended it by another week. We’ve got a wonderful game to look forward to, and that’s what or focus has to be on.”

Brunton Park was brought to its feet by the quality of a superb finish from Callum Guy and the home team started to turn the screw.

“I thought that goal was excellent, and he’s had a few of those this season,” he agreed. “But they have real pace with Banks, he’s a good football player.

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“That’s why he’s a Premier League player at Crystal Palace, he has a real turn of pace and he set their goal up, but we showed character.

“The third goal, the delivery from Mox was exactly what was needed, and I’m gutted for Ben Barclay. He’s got the goal that’s got us there and he unfortunately can’t play. We knew that before, that was always a gamble, I’m sure he was desperate for it to be Salford.

“It’s Stockport County, a great game to look forward to, and the preparations starts now. We aren’t going there to make the numbers up, we’ll have unbelievable support there and we’re going there to try to get ourselves promotion.

“And a big part of the game is that we dealt with their threats. Andy Cook, I've got to be honest I had that little bit of fear because we've kept him quiet for three games, so I thought this might be his day.

“Every player who has played a part, every single one of them, Corey, Ben, Hunts, they've all marshaled. And I thought Callum Guy did a good job screening in front of them. I thought we had a really good plan over the two games.

“I thought the plan went really well and the lads just kept that belief and kept working and even though cramp was setting in, they've dug in and earned a really big, big, big result.”

Ticket News


23 May 2023

Expanding on that, a feature of both legs has been the way the lads have literally ran themselves into the deck to get the job done.

“Bradford are a good side, they’ve been a good side all season, so you have to work hard,” he said. “It’s a big football club so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy over two legs.

“As it is, it’s fourth and fifth who have gone through, which is probably a fair reflection of the season. I know we had a similar record to Bradford but we deserved to be a place above, because we scored five more goals than they did.

“We’ve shown we can score goals again, because we’ve had a lot of weeks where we haven’t been able to do that. I’m really pleased to get three, and we’ve just got to keep working, building and preparing right for next week.

“I know the players are in there having a beer now, but I’ve told them that we’re back in on Monday and we’ve got to be ready to do it again. I want to go down there and I want to put on a performance that’s worthy of getting a result at Wembley.”

Staying on the bench for the game was top scorer Kris Dennis who, it was revealed, had picked up a nasty cut during the Thursday training session.

“He took a horrendous knock,” the manager revealed. “I actually thought he wasn’t going to be involved because of what happened. It was a really innocuous collision with a mannequin where he went onto it as we were doing some crossing and finishing.

“He went across the near post and he lost his footing, and he slipped and sliced his shin open. I’ve got to say it was horrendous, I was one of the first there, and it was a really deep slice, I actually saw the shin bone through the cut.

“He thought he was done, but luckily we got it stapled. I think there are about eight staples in there, but he told me on Saturday morning that he wanted to be involved. He didn’t want to miss this game, so he was there.

“I was caught because I wanted him to try and get on, and if we hadn’t have got that third goal either him or Jack Robinson were going on to try to give us some fresh legs.

“As it was with Corey having to come off I had to make a quick decision. Denno was still celebrating, he knows he’s played a huge part in what we’ve done so far this season to get us to this point.”

But ready to lead the line was the returning JK Gordon, who was back from his three-match suspension.

“He’s trained really well, he had an ankle injury early on and he missed a week or so, but he’s come back and he’s taken his opportunity,” he agreed. “I thought he was playing really well before he got his suspension.

“I thought was really unfortunate to have to miss three games. It's a proper learning experience for a young fella to have to go through that.

“I thought he was a real threat when he was going up against defenders and he was Johnny on the spot when he got the little tap in.

“That’s brilliant, we want that. Joe Garner worked tirelessly, I just thought everybody was outstanding. These aren’t easy games to navigate.

“They’re tough experiences and we’ve got a lot of lads who have never been through it before. I’ve been through it quite a number of times, but it was tough for me today as well.

“I’m sure I’ve gone balder, and I certainly sweated buckets, but what an end to the game. We really do have something to look forward to now.”

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