In a thrilling encounter at the University of Bradford Stadium, Mark Hughes’s Bradford City emerged triumphant with a 1-0 victory over Carlisle United in the first leg of the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final. Jamie Walker’s decisive first-half goal secured the advantage for the Bantams, who will now carry their one-goal lead to the hostile territory of Brunton Park next Saturday.

Expressing his pride in the team’s performance, the Bantams boss hopes to replicate their tenacity and spirit in the crucial second leg in Cumbria. “I was pleased with what we produced,” Hughes remarked. “It was difficult in the second half, you knew they were going to try and come back.”

Highlighting the team’s dominance in the opening half, Hughes emphasised the deserving nature of their winning goal. “Our first-half performance was some of the best football we have played all season,” he acknowledged. Displaying confidence in their ability to challenge Carlisle’s defensive setup, the Welshman stated, “We are a team that will cause them problems. Carlisle set up in a certain way, and we wanted to test them in certain areas.”

The record-breaking support from 20,575 passionate fans packed into the University of Bradford Stadium brought immense joy to the City manager. “There was a real crackle in the crowd. I have experienced big crowds in my career, but that was right up there,” Hughes revealed. The electric atmosphere contributed to the sense of occasion, leaving Hughes filled with pride for everyone associated with Bradford City.

As they head into the second leg with a slender lead, Hughes recognises the challenges that lie ahead but remains confident in his team’s abilities. “We go to the second leg in front, with still a lot of work to do, and it will not be easy,” he cautioned. However, he emphasised the need for a positive approach, stating, “We will look to be positive and get another goal.” With their loyal supporters by their side once again, Hughes relishes the prospect of another thrilling encounter. “What an atmosphere. I really enjoyed the night. We are in the lead, and we are pleased with that.”

The return leg at Brunton Park promises to be an enthralling battle, as both teams vie for a place in the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final. Bradford City’s one-goal advantage has set the stage for an intense showdown, with the Bantams aiming to capitalise on their quality and cause further problems for the resilient Cumbrians. Football enthusiasts eagerly await the decisive clash that will determine which team secures a coveted spot in the league’s summit.