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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 21

9 January 2013

You can't say Bradford City have been lucky. The Bantams fully deserve to stand on the threshold of a quite unbelievable journey to the Capital One Cup Final.

The performance produced by Phil Parkinson's side to beat Aston Villa 3-1 was simply sensational. Yes, Villa missed some good chances but let's credit Bradford for taking the opportunities that went their way. At no point did they panic or become overawed by the situation, and if truth be told the margin of victory could have been even greater.

What a wonderful reflection on npower League 2 they've provided. This team has courage, temperament and ability, and in the shape of the big boy James Hanson and the lively Nahkii Wells, they possess two front players who have proved they can cause loads of problems for anyone.

I won't go as far as to say that this tie is over, and that they'll definitely repeat the heroics of fourth tier Rochdale in 1962 by reaching the final, but they have given themselves an amazing chance. No side at this level could ever dream of playing in the final, but if the bookies are to be believed, Bradford City are now favourites.

In league action this week were Morecambe, who must be applauded for granting all supporters free entry to their clash with Dagenham and Redbridge at the Globe Arena.

The last time the Londoners visited Morecambe on a Tuesday night little over 1,200 people turned up, but this time around a record league gate of 4,029 were in attendance, helping to inspire my former club to a 2-1 comeback win against a really in-form side.

When I was in charge there, my toughest task was always to get people through the turnstiles, and it continues to be a tall order for the club. Hopefully this gesture will encourage more locals to come back and get behind the team, because Morecambe desperately need to increase their revenue.

What do they do next? That's the big quandary because you can't survive by giving away tickets for free all the time. I'm sure the club will cut prices for certain games, and put on special promotions, because they've now seen what a lift it can give the players to play in front of a decent crowd with an atmosphere.

I was also really pleased for Andy Parrish, who bagged the winner, because it was his first ever goal for the club. I signed him for Morecambe and he's a fantastic competitor and a lovely lad to work with.

His face was so excited I thought he was going to run out of the ground when he scored. He was almost uncontrollable!

A manager who was very much in control of his emotions on Tuesday night was Paul Sturrock who caused quite a stir with his decision to substitute goalkeeper Paul Smith in the 90th minute, so that youngster Daniel Bentley was between the sticks for their Johnstone's Paint Area semi-final penalty shoot-out at Oxford United.

I've seen managers do this before, but it's highly unusual. I fully understand why Smith was so upset to leave the pitch - he went straight to the dressing room without shaking anyone's hand - but a manager has to do what he thinks is best for the team.

It's harsh to think he didn't trust Smith for the shoot-out, but he's obviously seen something from Bentley in training that makes him think he's the best man for the job on spot-kicks. The youngster was the hero against Bury in round two of the FA Cup, during penalties, so that stuck in Sturrock's mind no doubt.

Personally, I admire Sturrock's bravery. If the decision had backfired he'd have looked silly and there could have been a bad fall-out, but he stood by his convictions and it worked out well in the end, when Bentley saved Alfie Potter's kick to send the Essex side into the Area Final.

Last but not least I have to say Port Vale have pulled off a quality signing by bringing in Lee Hughes. I first came across him when I was managing in the Conference, and he was a prolific marksman for Kidderminster Harriers, and he's always been sharp, talented and full of goals.

If Lee's attitude is right he can do a lot of damage in npower League 2, and he's also able to play anywhere across the forward line, too. His potential partnership with the division's top scorer Tom Pope could be the decisive factor in this season's race for the title.

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