Mark Hughes’ Bantams will carry a 1-0 advantage into the second leg of the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final next weekend, following a hard-fought win over Carlisle United at the University of Bradford Stadium.

Jamie Walker’s goal in the 18th minute proved sufficient for City to secure victory in the first leg against the Cumbrians, setting the stage for the return fixture on the following Saturday.

The match got off to a fast and intense start at Valley Parade, with a record attendance of over 20,000 spectators. City dominated possession in the early stages, keeping the away side pinned in their own half for most of the first 10 minutes.

Carlisle came close to opening the scoring with a spectacular half-volley from Joe Garner, but his long-range strike hit the top of the crossbar, and the referee had already blown the whistle for handball.

Taking advantage of the resulting free-kick, the Bantams quickly counterattacked and took the lead through Walker. Harry Lewis launched a long free-kick forward, which was deftly flicked on by Andy Cook to Scott Banks. Banks then played a through pass to his fellow Scotsman, Walker, who calmly slotted the ball through the legs of Tomas Holy to put City in control.

The Bantams continued to press and nearly doubled their lead in the 30th minute. After Cook’s cross was cleared, Walker seized the loose ball, but his effort slid wide of the far post.

Hughes’ team finished the first half strongly, and if it weren’t for Holy’s fingertip save from Banks, they would have gone into the break with a two-goal advantage.

The second half saw the first opportunity for Paul Simpson’s side as Corey Whelan’s headed effort from a corner caused chaos in the box, but City’s goalkeeper Lewis managed to claim the ball.

Simpson’s team came close once again to equalizing when Ryan Edmonson’s shot-cum-cross slipped under Lewis, finding Armer unmarked at the far post. However, Armer’s effort from a tight angle only found the side-netting.

As the second half progressed, the Blues started to find their rhythm and trouble City. Armer delivered a cross that Edmondson met six yards out, but he couldn’t direct his header on target.

Encouraged by a crowd of 20,575, City’s largest ever in a playoff match and the highest in the history of the Sky Bet League Two Play-Offs, the Bantams held firm to protect their 1-0 lead, which they will defend at Brunton Park next Saturday, May 20, at 3:00 pm.