It has been an amazing season for Bradford City, as they became the first team from the fourth-tier to reach the final of the League Cup since 1962.
However, they were well and truly beaten by an impressive Swansea side, who showed Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa how to break down a lower league team. To end up losing 5-0 in the final was harsh on Bradford, after beating just as many Premier League teams this season as Queens Park Rangers, they would have hoped to run Swansea close in the final game.
So what next for Bradford? Three days after the final, they had a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Dagenham & Redbridge, a match they would have had down as a potential three points.
Bradford's players are evidently tired, they have only won twice in the league since beating Arsenal in December and their other cup-runs in the FA Cup and the Football League Trophy meant that at one point defender Rory McArdle, a scorer in the win against Aston Villa, had played the most games in the football league.
The cup run appears to have seriously affected the Bantam's league form, with the players minds understandably elsewhere, but with the final now over they can look to get back into the play-off mix having slipped down to 12th having occupied the play-off positions for most of the season.
In recent years, Bradford have not enjoyed much success in either the cup or the league, so this season has been a welcome change. However promotion is always the ultimate aim for any team in the Football League so it will be important for Bradford to regain the form they showed earlier in the season.
Bradford's quest for the play-offs was boosted after they earned their first win in four with a 2-0 away success over York City, whilst they now face playing twice a week for the whole of March to try and clear the back-log of fixtures caused by the League Cup run. These include difficult away games against Port Vale and Exeter City, but also four home games against teams either below them or around them, and a good run of form in March could easily leave Bradford in a strong position going into the final few games of the season.
Bradford fans will also be looking anxiously at manager Phil Parkinson's contract situation, as the cup run has given both him and the club a lot of publicity, he is sure to be targeted by clubs in higher divisions at the end of the season. Parkinson was voted Reading's best ever central midfielder having played over 361 league games for the club during his playing career, and might fancy a return to the Royals should Reading fail to escape relegation from the Premier League and look for alternative options to Brian McDermott. Bradford fans will also be keen to keep club top-scorer Nahki Wells, who has attracted interest from Championship clubs in recent weeks.
Bradford have done their fans proud already this season, so it would be a shame to waste what looked like such a promising league campaign at one point and not reach the play-offs for the first time since their last visit to Wembley, in 1996 when they won promotion to the Championship by defeating Notts County 2-0.
Parkinson certainly has the squad to achieve this, but will the players be too tired? With defender Andrew Davies returning from injury, things are looking more promising, but he will need Wells to keep scoring to help fire Bradford into the play-offs.
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