LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Bradford City crashed to a 5-0 loss to Swansea City on Sunday in their first major cup final for 102 years but coach Phil Parkinson said he could not fault his players.
Bradford, whose only other final appearance came in 1911 when they beat Newcastle United 1-0 in an FA Cup replay, never looked like emulating that success in a one-sided League Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
But that did not diminish the contribution of the Bradford spectators who displayed a huge banner commemorating the deaths of 56 fans in a fire at their Valley Parade ground in 1985 and maintained their vocal support to the end.
"I can't criticise anyone as the lads have been magnificent," said Parkinson who was full of praise for the Bradford fans as well.
"The highlight for me was the way the fans stayed behind the team throughout the game," he told reporters.
He admitted Swansea were in a different class.
"What Swansea did to us they've done to Premier League sides this season," he said. "They're an outstanding side and I have to give massive credit to the job Michael Laudrup has done.
"We didn't do everything to our maximum but it was a big day and a massive ask with a lot of youngsters in our side.
"Of course, we could have done better but to go to Wigan and win, to beat Arsenal and then Aston Villa over two legs - I don't want to be critical.
"The way the lads conducted themselves throughout this added exposure has been outstanding."
His one note of disappointment regarded the penalty awarded after 58 minutes with the score at 3-0 to Swansea.
Parkinson felt referee Kevin Friend could have shown a more lenient attitude before sending off goalkeeper Matt Duke after he tripped Swansea midfielder Jonathan De Guzman when the Dutchman was in on goal.
"The referee could have used his common sense and a bit of discretion in terms of the context of the game," said Parkinson.
"We were three down with a penalty to face. With the greatest respect we were never going to come back and win 5-4 so he could have just booked Matt."
Despite the crushing defeat and the reality of returning to fourth tier football with a home game against Dagenham & Redbridge on Wednesday, Parkinson was in upbeat mood.
"The highlight for me was the way the fans stayed behind the team throughout the game," he added.
"They were magnificent and they recognised what a brilliant achievement it was for a club from the fourth tier to reach this final."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)