Wednesday, 8 May 2013

League Two play-off final preview: Bradford City v Northampton Town

With the Football League season only finishing a couple weeks ago, there are still promotion places to settle through the play-offs. The League Two play-off final is the first to take to the Wembley turf on Saturday 18th May, which will see Bradford City take on Northampton Town for the right to play in League One next season.

Bradford City:
Bradford find themselves visiting Wembley for the second time this season. The last visit was one to remember and forget for the Bantams as they were beaten 5-0 by Swansea in the Captial One Cup final. If they were to secure promotion as well this season, then it would have been an extraordinary season for them. Their run in the Capital One Cup saw them overcome Premier League opposition in both Arsenal and Aston Villa. Phil Parkinson's men came from a goal down in the play-off semi final eventually winning 5-4 on aggregate against Burton Albion. Having been 3-2 down from the first leg, City won 3-1 at the Pirelli to make the final. Once of the Premier League, Bradford have been in League Two since the 2007 season and will want to start making a return up the leagues with victory over Northampton come the 18th May.

Northampton Town:
The Cobblers find themselves 90 minutes away from a possible return to League One for the first time since 2009. Under the management of Aidy Boothroyd, Northampton have gone from narrowly avoiding relegation last year, to a top six finish this year. Beating Cheltenham over two legs in the semi finals, Town ended a poor run of form having only won one of their six games played in April. Northampton hadn't had much luck previously in the play-offs with defeats in 2003/04 to Mansfield and then again the following season to Southend United.

We spoke to Cobblers fan of 13 years Ashley Lambell (@ashlambell) about his side's chances in the final and his views on the season just gone.

What does it feel like to be 90 minutes away from promotion and League One?
Ashley: The prospect of local derbies against Peterborough and MK Dons as well as potential games against Wolves, Sheffield United and Coventry means that everyone associated with Northampton Town is really excited for this game!

Where does reaching the play-off final rank in the club's history?
Ashley: The play-off final will be another great moment in the history alongside the two previous visits to Wembley in the 1990s and the Carling Cup victory against Liverpool. Definitely in the top five I would say.

What do you think has been the key to your successful season having narrowly avoided relegation last season?
Ashley: We've looked a better team unit this season rather than a bunch of talented individuals thrown together. Aidy Boothroyd has instilled a real togetherness in the squad and the football club, and the players seem to believe that anything is possible this season.

How much of a threat are Bradford City, and is there a stand out player for them you are worried about?
Ashley: Bradford are a tough team and certainly won't be an easy game for us, especially as they've been to Wembley already this season. Nakhi Wells always has a great goalscoring record against us, and we will need to be wary of his sharpness and finishing on the day.

You drew and lost against Bradford in the league this season, do you think this matters going into the final?
Ashley: I don't think it does. We finished higher than Bradford in the league table and to me, that is a more accurate reflection of the season the two teams have had. Cheltenham had beaten us twice in the league before the play-off semi-final but we saw them off quite comfortably so there is no reason why we can't do the same again.

Which player should we watch out for Northampton Town?
Ashley: Everyone will, of course, look out for 'Bayo Akinfenwa' but I would say Chris Hackett is our stand out player. With his devastating mix of pace, power and clinical finishing, he is a winger to be feared and with the large pitch at Wembley, he could be a match-winner.
Chris Hackett
Going onto Akinfenwa, he has had an excellent season for you, how important is it for him to be on his game in the final?
Ashley: Massively important. When Bayo has his 'beastmode' switched on, he is almost impossible to handle and we certainly look a much better outfit when he performs well. Hopefully his experience of playing in a final before, for Swansea, will come in useful next weekend.

Finally, will you be making the trip to Wembley?
Ashley: I definitely will be! It's going to be a massive day for the club, and proof of just how far we have progressed in the last 18 months.

Predicted line up: 
Ashley: Nicholls; Tozer, Carlisle, Langmead, Collins; Demontagnac, Guttridge, Harding, Hackett; O'Donovan, Akinfenwa

Ashley's score prediction: 
Bradford 1-2 Northampton Town

Bradford City v Northampton Town will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 on Saturday 18th May from 13:00. 

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