Bantams secure promotion
Bradford capped a remarkable season as three goals inside the first 28 minutes of their npower League Two play-off final against Northampton secured them their first promotion in 14 years following a 3-0 win at Wembley.
Goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and leading scorer Nahki Wells settled the contest inside half an hour and made it a happy return to the capital for Phil Parkinson's side and 25,000 of their fans, three months after their historic Capital One Cup final appearance.
The Bantams, last promoted when they reached the top flight in 1999, have just completed their sixth season in the bottom tier but clearly benefited from their chastening Wembley experience at the hands of Swansea in February and swept aside Northampton, who failed to get to grips with the occasion.
Northampton's Bradford-born manager Aidy Boothroyd, who guided Watford to the Premier League via a play-off final win against Leeds in 2006, has failed to get the better of Parkinson in five meetings this season.
Those two league successes for Bradford and an FA Cup penalty shootout win following a replay had all been hard-fought and not even the staunchest of Bantams fans could have envisaged the easy manner of their success.
Bradford were unchanged from the side that started the second leg of their semi-final at Burton, where a 3-1 win secured a 5-4 aggregate victory.
Winger Ishmel Demontagnac and striker Clive Platt returned for Northampton after missing the return leg of their semi-final win at Cheltenham. The Cobblers won both legs 1-0.
Bradford settled quicker and after hogging possession were rewarded for their early composure with the game's opening goal in the 15th minute.
Northampton failed to clear Kyel Reid's cross adequately and when the ball broke on the right edge of the penalty area, Garry Thompson picked out Hanson at the far post and the big striker guided his header over stranded Cobblers goalkeeper Lee Nicholls into the net.
Northampton had hardly got a foothold in the game when the West Yorkshire club doubled their lead four minutes later.
This time Nathan Doyle's fine first-time cross to the near post was met by McArdle, who stole in ahead of a flat-footed defence to head powerfully home.
Boothroyd's boys were being over-run by a City side playing like they had been here before and when Wells headed home their third goal in the 28th minute, the contest appeared over.
Thompson again played a key role, heading the ball back across goal following Reid's cross for an unmarked Wells to volley home his 26th goal of the season and his eighth in as many games.
Roy Donovan headed a rare chance wide for the Cobblers towards the end of the first half and Clarke Carlisle was just off target with a similar effort before the interval, but Northampton looked crestfallen as they headed down the tunnel.
There was no let-up from Bradford after the restart and only a finger-tip save from Nicholls denied the Bantams a fourth goal after Clarke's attempted clearance had rebounded goalwards off Hanson.
Northampton substitutes Joe Widdowson and Adebayo Akinfenwa replaced Lee Collins and Platt, but the dye was cast as City continued to carry the greater threat.
City fans paid tribute to the 56 fans who lost their lives at Valley Parade in 1985 with cheers and applause in the 56th minute, one week after the fire disaster's 28th anniversary.
Reid fluffed his lines soon after when misdirecting a cross from Wells off target and the latter forced Nicholls into another save with a low shot as City began to enjoy themselves.
Akinfenwa's tame header at the end of a rare foray forward summed up the Cobblers' disappointment and City cruised through the closing stages to spark joyous scenes of celebration among their fans.