Mark Hughes’ Bantams secured their spot in the third round of the Carabao Cup by triumphing 4-3 in a penalty shootout against Wrexham at the STōK Cae Ras.
At the end of 90 minutes in Wales, the score was tied at 1-1. Tyler Smith had initiated the scoring for City within three minutes, converting a penalty after Jamie Walker was brought down by Aaron Hayden.
City dictated much of the game’s flow, but eventually succumbed to the pressure from the Red Dragons. Will Boyle found the net with a header from Luke Young’s corner, equalising and leading to a shootout.
In the penalty shootout, the visitors emerged victorious. Harry Lewis thwarted James Jones’ penalty kick, propelling the Bantams into the third round for the first time since 2014.
Supported by a full-away crowd at the Racecourse Ground, City launched an early threat and managed to take the lead within the opening three minutes. A lofted pass from Richie Smallwood found Alex Pattison in space, who then delivered a clever through ball to Walker. Before Walker could reach the pass, Hayden, who had returned to Wrexham’s lineup, was deemed to have committed a foul, prompting referee Ben Speedie to award a penalty. Smith stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner, registering his first goal in City colours.
The Bantams continued to trouble Wrexham’s defence shortly thereafter. A lofted pass from Matty Platt found Smith, who manoeuvred past Ben Tozer and fired a shot towards the goal, only to be denied a second goal by Howard’s leg.
As the first half progressed, the former Bantams manager Phil Parkinson’s team gradually gained momentum in their pursuit of an equaliser. Both Jake Bickerstaff and Luke Young launched powerful shots over Lewis, while Ben Tozer and Sam Dalby posed threats from corners, forcing Lewis into making two impressive saves.
Approaching halftime, it was the Bantams who appeared closer to adding to the scoreline. Smith capitalised on Hayden’s errant back pass, attempting to chip the ball over Wrexham’s goalkeeper, Howard, who intervened to maintain the scoreline at 1-0 going into halftime.
Walker continued to pose a threat to the Red Dragons’ defence, receiving the ball from under Jacob Mendy and feeding Emmanuel Osadebe. However, Osadebe’s shot sailed over the goal, as Hughes’ team sought to extend their lead in the second half.
Effectively utilising counterattacks, the Bantams once again bypassed Wrexham’s defence. Substitute Bobby Pointon, in his second senior appearance, skillfully threaded a pass to Brad Halliday, but the right-back failed to find the target.
As in the first half, the Welsh side required time to establish their presence in the second half. Their efforts were finally rewarded just before the 75th minute. Skipper Luke Young’s well-placed corner found Will Boyle in the centre, who headed the ball into the net to level the score, setting the stage for the final 15 minutes.
Matt Derbyshire had several opportunities to nudge the Bantams ahead, but his deflected shot and header were both stopped by Howard.
Both teams pushed to avoid the match reaching penalties, but the game ultimately proceeded to a shootout – the same method that led to this evening’s confrontation. Luke Young missed the opening penalty, giving City an advantage. Derbyshire, Richie Smallwood, Halliday, and debutant Adam Wilson all successfully converted their spot-kicks, firmly placing City in control.
Daniel Oyegoke had the chance to secure victory for the visitors in front of over 1,000 travelling Bantams supporters, but Howard denied his attempt. James Jones took the final penalty before sudden death and sent his shot into the waiting palms of Harry Lewis, sealing Hughes’ Bantams’ progression to the third round.