****(My match reports from our Premiership days – 2000-2001)
– Match 02 – InterToto Cup Second Round Second Leg – July 9th 2000
– Bradford City 4 (Mills 12, 36, Blake 70 pen, Grant 85)
– FK Atlantas 1 (Karalius 90)
– (Agg 7-2)
Lee Mills returned from the Valley Parade squad periphery to notch a splendid first-half double and put Bradford City into the third round of the InterToto Cup.
The 29-year-old sidefooted home after 12 minutes and added a second 24 minutes later to set up a meeting with RCK Waalwijk of the Netherlands in the next round.
A second-half Robbie Blake penalty and a late Gareth Grant effort gave the scoreline a slightly unrealistic look, but the battling Lithuanians were comprehensively beaten.
Now City and their new manager Chris Hutchings can dream of emulating West Ham’s achievement last season of progressing from the InterToto and having a decent run in the UEFA Cup.
Sunday afternoon’s tie was Mills’ first outing for the Bantams since a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in mid January. Since then he has been loaned out to Manchester City following a row with former boss Paul Jewell, who didn’t even recall Mills for last season’s dramatic finale against Liverpool.
Atlantas are from the Baltic coastline and looked adrift from the seventh minute when Robbie Blake walloped a stunning half-volley against the woodwork after delightfully controlling a left-wing cross from Dean Saunders.
Moments later, Bradford failed to clear a loose ball and the visitor’s Darius Karalius hit a low, skidding shot which goalkeeper Matt Clarke just managed to pounce upon from 15 yards.
Lee Mills broke the deadlock from Blake’s pass to effectively end the tie although the Lithuanians could have equalised a moment later. Andrius Petreikis whipped in a quality cross from the right for striker Karalius to force a first-time effort goalwards from 12 yards, but the magnificent acrobatically Clarke flung himself full stretch to tip the ball over.
After 36 minutes, Bradford were two-up. Dean Saunders supplied a marvellous ball from the left and Mills obliged with a neat header into the bottom corner.
In the second-half Mills then went looking for his hat-trick, but nodded over the bar in the 58 minute from a Wayne Jacobs corner. Windass was next with a speculative effort that skimmed past the right-hand post.
Then came a flurry of yellow cards, with Windass one of the recipients, ensuring he will miss next week’s first leg with the Dutch team Waalwjk after being cautioned in Lithuania last Sunday.
Bradford grabbed a third in the 70th minute when Blake beat Osipov from the spot after the keeper had felled Windass.
In an entertaining game brimming with endeavour, there was still time for Gareth Grant to grab a goal and Karalius to blast a last-gasp consolation for the visitors.
The only taint on a successful day at the office for the Bantams was an injury to Wayne Jacobs, stretchered off after a thumping second-half challenge.
- Bradford City: Clarke, Todd, Wetherall, O’Brien, Jacobs (Myers 75), Blake, McCall, Windass, Whalley, Mills (Rankin 83), Saunders (Grant 71)
- Subs Not Used: Davison, Westwood, Kerr, Bower. Booked: Windass, Wetherall
- FK Atlantas: Osipov, Vasiljev, Puckov, Lukosevicius, Maciulevicius, Petreikes, Jermakov, Zernys (Vainoras 27), Vijeikis (Veseljevas 42), Karalius, Suika, Vainoras (Raliukonis 68)
- Subs Not Used: Valius, Kontautas, Cepas, Tautvydas
- Booked: Veseljevas, Suika, Lukosevicius
- Attendance: 10,012
- Referee: C. Mendez (Spain)