Accrington Stanley vs Bradford City match preview
@The Crown Ground on Saturday 8 September, 2012
By Phil Abbott
As City prepare for a ‘pick-me-up’ visit to Accrington Stanley on Saturday, the stats are stacked against the Bantams in a number of ways. It’s more a case of ‘City Slackers’ than ‘City Slickers’ on the road, and with seemingly every away trip, the points per game ratio seems to take a hit in the wrong direction.
Whilst once upon a time against Stanley there were remarkable celebrations, (with the last 10 minute trio of goals to grab an unprecedented 3-2 victory in October 2008) the vast majority of City offerings against this ‘bogey side to match all bogey sides’ have too often left City fans dejected or disappointed. The importance of grabbing one or more points on Saturday is huge – to annul the fears of a total collapse planted in City minds following the walloping at Rotherham last week, and to prove that we haven’t turned into an outfit incapable of turning around poor form away from Valley Parade so early in the season (albeit with the two toughest of tough away days so far).
It won’t just be those factors that will be on the minds of two City players in particular. James Hanson and Luke Oliver will likely be the only two starting survivors from the corresponding away fixture last year. The problem for the superstitious (or stat driven) fan is that both players have unenviable records against Stanley whilst playing for Bradford City. Neither player has been in a winning City side, Hanson is yet to open his scoring account against Accrington, and in defence, Oliver and Co. have consistently leaked far too many Stanley goals to glean valuable points for the Bantams league campaign.
If that weren’t enough, City will once again take a huge away following to the game and it seems that playing in front of such numbers is somehow an unmanageable burden the Bantams teams of late have found difficult to carry.
All in all, one looks at this breakdown (and it’s enough to give you one to be fair!) and there seems no rationale at all to suggest that the thousand or so City fans travelling to the game will see anything other than another disappointing score line away from home. In truth, whilst there is no doubting that Rotherham played exceptionally well on Saturday (a performance out of place in League Two, I would suggest), the biggest difference in both our away games this season between City and the opposition has been the finishing. City squandered their chances at important times in those games and that proved extremely costly.
However, there is hope I believe – and I’m backing Hanson and Oliver to make that happen.
As the title suggests, if City are to gain anything from this fixture, they are going to have to make more of their possession and be much more Gillingham and Rotherham-esque about their creativity and finishing. Furthermore, there must be a tighter back line if we are to suppress the advances of a lively Stanley strike force.
To me, there is no doubt that City have it in themselves to bounce back this Saturday. They will be hurting badly. There is enough skill and experience to overcome most League 2 obstacles this season, and Hanson and Oliver will need to lead by example if they are to temper their atrocious records.
I suspect lessons have been learnt by Phil Parkinson from the Rotherham game, and whilst it was the wish of a good deal of City fans to see us set a more attacking formation away from home in general, very few of us thought we would see its first incarnation at the highly fancied Millers. Don’t be surprised to see Will Atkinson and/or Garry Thompson from the start (to add a sturdier look to our defensive shape, whilst bringing greater control to the midfield passing triangles) and possibly even a switch up front with Nahki Wells snubbed for Alan Connell. In fact, Parkinson’s may make even more changes, possibly replacing Rory McArdle with Stephen Darby, and Matt Duke in danger of losing out between the sticks.
This shape will, I predict, pay dividends for Parkinson, creating those necessary ‘magic moments’ and a well earned point will be a useful reward for our endeavours on Saturday. As I wrote in an earlier article, ‘Does the table ever lie?’ I think that gaining a point would be a positive step forward for City come judgement day.