By David Williams
Mark Hughes felt Bradford City’s 1-0 play-off semi-final win over Carlisle was a great advert for Sky Bet League Two.
The Valley Parade crowd of 20,575 was the highest for this stage in the fourth tier.
Jamie Walker scored the only goal after 18 minutes to give the Bantams the edge for the return at Brunton Park next Saturday.
Welsh manager Hughes said: “The atmosphere tonight was incredible. It’s a great representation of League Two football and the fans were fantastic and I really enjoyed being part of it.
“It was evenly contested. I knew it would be because it has been between ourselves and Carlisle all season but I just felt we had the edge tonight.
“We are pleased with how the game panned out and obviously the result is important for us.
“We know we’re going to have a really difficult second leg that we’re going to have to navigate.
“I thought we were excellent first half and took the game to Carlisle. We won the 50-50 balls that you always have to at this level.
“Second half they bypassed us a little bit and went more direct and hit us with diagonals. I thought physically we stood up to that challenge.
“We’ve got the advantage albeit just by one goal. But we will go there and be positive. We know we can cause Carlisle problems.”
Walker finished from just inside the box after Andy Cook’s flick-on was touched into his path by Scott Banks. He also went close with a cross-shot while Banks was denied by Carlisle goalkeeper Tomas Holy.
But the Cumbrians were the better team in the second half with good chances for substitutes Ryan Edmondson and Kristian Dennis. Edmondson missed the best opportunity when he headed wide from Jack Armer’s cross.
Carlisle manager Paul Simpson felt his side could have scored three and is confident of turning the tie round.
“We’re more than capable of doing it back home,” he said. “We came to win this game but went behind. But we stayed in the game.
“It showed two teams wanting to play and two sets of supporters that backed their teams to the hilt.
“For my team, we saw commitment, desire and energy.
“We gave them that goal start but we can more than match Bradford City at home.
“One thing was missing for us was the finish. We could have had three goals but I still take all the positives.
“They are a really good Bradford City team and the Bradford fans created a real atmosphere. Fair play to our fans, they really backed the side too.
“We had some chances but we just need more care with our passing and to get in behind.”