LDV Vans Trophy 1st Round
CUP kings Accrington wasted no time in making their mark on the LDV Vans Trophy as their first appearance in the competition produced one of its biggest ever upsets.
The gap between Bradford's Premiership status and Stanley's place in the UniBond League First Division has been whittled down in the last four years.
And at Valley Parade on Wednesday night it disappeared completely as Accrington sent their League One opponents crashing out with Lee McEvilly's last-gasp winner capping a stunning performance from John Coleman's side.
Coleman had demanded a positive approach and his players didn't disappoint as they outplayed a Bantams line-up shorn of a couple of its most experienced performers but still boasting multi-million-pound price-tags.
Coleman said: "I tried to emphasise that we need to be more of a threat.
"We stressed that we have to attack more. If we had come here and tried to defend in numbers we would have got turned over, so the gameplan worked.
"We got a lot of ball to Paul Mullin, who laid a lot off for Ian Craney to shoot and if he had brought his shooting boots in the first-half we might have been two or three up."
Instead Stanley had only a first goal for the club from recent signing Mike Flynn to show for their efforts and when Dele Adebola levelled almost immediately the visitors could have seen their belief drain away.
There was to be no buckling, though, and after resisting what City could muster by way of a goal threat Stanley finished the strongest to book their place in Saturday's second-round draw.
"I thought we raised our game and maybe they dropped theirs a little bit," Coleman added.
"Our keeper made a couple of really good saves and the one he made in the first half was breath-taking, probably one of the best you'll see.
"But I was delighted with the way we defended in the second-half. Ian Craney might have nicked it two minutes earlier, but we stuck to our task and got the goal."
Coleman's pre-match plans had to be altered when the registration for new signing Chris Butler wasn't received in time and Paul Howarth was drafted in at right-back.
It was only Howarth's third appearance of the season but he seized his opportunity with an impressive performance in a back-four which barely put a foot wrong all night to create the platform for Stanley to take the game to their opponents.
With Paul Cook and Ged Brannan enjoying their return to a familiar stage, Craney was given the freedom to exploit the space around Mullin and twice he went close before Flynn, who picked up a winner's medal in the competition with Blackpool last season, headed home Cook's free-kick after 26 minutes.
The lead proved short-lived as former Burnley loan man Adebola charged through to level three minutes later and he would have given Bradford a half-time lead but for Jon Kennedy's outstanding one-handed save.
Having survived that let-off, Stanley started the second-half strongly with Craney and the tireless McEvilly both testing City keeper Paul Henderson.
Sensing a possible shock Bradford rallied and enjoyed a purple patch in which Kennedy was forced to save well from Dean Windass and on-loan Wigan striker Neil Roberts.
But Stanley weathered that storm and drawing on impressive levels of fitness almost snatched the winner when Craney clipped a shot just wide.
Extra-time was then looming but Stanley refused to wait for glory as Mullin and Craney combined for a final time to create the chance for McEvilly to convert from close-range and write another chapter in Accrington's recent happy history.
Bradford: Henderson, Denton, Bower, Gavin, Schumacher, Crooks (Penfold 65), Emanuel, Muirhead, Adebola (Symes 80), Roberts, Windass. Subs not used: Bentham, Forrest, Kearney.
Accrington: Kennedy, Cavanagh, Howarth (Smith 75), Flynn, Gerrard, Brannan, Jagielka, Cook (Williams 74), Craney, Mullin, McEvilly. Subs not used: James, Tuck, Alcock.
Referee: Nigel Miller.