Bradford City vs York City preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 13 October, 2012
By Jason McKeown
It was only the second time so far this season – at least according to James Meredith, who spoke very impressively at the Skipton Bantams meeting on Wednesday – that Phil Parkinson lost his rag with the players at half time. And the response from the players at Dagenham has been quietly impressive over the last game-and-a-half.
A much improved second half display in Essex was not quite good enough to overturn the head start City had afforded the Daggers, but a penalty shootout success and all round good performance at Hartlepool in midweek offered positive reasons to top up any half empty glasses. Nevertheless City entertain York City tomorrow with the league season on something of a knife edge.
Win and the Bantams should be back into the play off spots. Lose and suddenly the league record will read W5 D2 L5 – bordering on mid-table form. Over the years there has been a reoccurring momentum around the club, driven by us supporters, that when things start to go wrong the pressure can very quickly build.
Firstly though, we need to remember that our home record remains highly impressive. It somehow seems longer than a fortnight since we trooped out of Valley Parade feeling gutted but far from despondent about a 1-0 loss to Port Vale. Before that City had won four from four at home, scoring 12 and conceding just two. If the perspective of time suggests that our 4-0 walloping to Rotherham (currently 10th) was not, in fact, a case of the future League Two champions proving too hot to handle, Vale’s current 2nd place indicates we were beaten by a side who will ultimately finish in the top three.
Indeed the stat of three winless League Two games can be turned on its head when you consider how well City played against Vale, Rochdale and in the second half at Dagenham. There is talk, perhaps partly justified, that the Bantams have struggled to produce a complete 90 minute performance. But equally only the 90 minutes against Rotherham, and first halves against Barnet and Dagenham can be accurately described as below par.
So City welcome York in finer fettle than the external perception might suggest, with confidence further boosted by Parkinson opting not to make a loan loaning this week after ruling an unnamed trailist in a behind-closed-doors match was no better than what he has in the building. The 4-3-1-2 is set to make its home debut tomorrow, with the prospect of Parkinson deploying a front three of James Hanson, Nahki Wells and Alan Connell one to excite.
Hanson has failed to score in six games. His reaction to a hasty and wayward effort at Victoria Park – minutes after missing a sitter – displayed a dented confidence that will hopefully be rectified by home comforts. Last week at Rochdale, Width of a Post drew attention to the fact Hanson had failed to score a league goal away from home for over a year. Let’s readdress the balance by looking at his Valley Parade record over the same period: 23 appearances, 13 goals. That is impressive.
In midfield it will be interesting to see if Parkinson opts for Ricky Ravenhill or Ritchie Jones, as it would appear to have an impact on the balance of the whole team. Ravenhill and Nathan Doyle are similar in positional style, and the latter is excelling at playing in front of the back four and dictating the play. Do you move Doyle forwards – less his game – to accommodate Ravenhill, or ask Ritchie Jones to be Gary Jones? The lack of match sharpness of Ritchie may be a telling factor in who gets the nod. Ravenhill has a lot to offer the club, but you want to see Parkinson pick the best team rather than who he considers to be the best players. Will Atkinson should continue on the left – along with Connell, a clear winner of the change in tactics.
The calling up of Rory McArdle to Northern Ireland duty makes the back four – if Luke Oliver is fit – very easy to pick. Stephen Darby makes his home league debut – he probably wouldn’t have expected to wait until October to say that – alongside Andrew Davies and James Meredith, with Jon McLaughlin in goal. If Oliver is not fit it leaves Parkinson with a big headache. But Oliver is not the type of player who will sit a game out if he is close to fitness.
Without wanting to discuss in detail what Meredith had to say in Skipton on Wednesday – Width of a Post will have a full report next week – his comments about getting forwards were very interesting. Meredith has been instructed not to overlap Kyel Reid when he is fit and playing, because the winger is less effective at providing defensive cover and City can be caught out on the counter attack. This looks astute management on Parkinson’s part. We have in Reid, and before him Omar Daley, a direct winger who provides the team with the spark, but is not so good at certain things. Rather than worry too much about Reid’s own shortcomings, Parkinson has ensured the system enables him to concentrate on what he does best, partly by recruiting a left back whose biggest strength is his defending.
Suddenly you can see why Luke O’Brien and Robbie Threlfall saw their City careers end so abruptly.
For now, however, without Reid and with a 4-3-1-2 formation, there is a greater onus on the full backs to get forwards and support attacks – very evident on Tuesday. So, if you weren’t at Rochdale, expect to see Meredith provide much more of an attacking threat then you have seen to date. Incidentally James is very excited about playing his former club tomorrow.
As, on the other side, will be Lee Bullock, who makes a first return to Valley Parade since his surprise summer release. Reports suggest that Bullock has not settled brilliantly back into life at one of his previous clubs. He was sent off in a JPT game and has started just one game to date.
Matthew White, a York City fan, told Width of a Post, “I was really pleased when he came back as I thought he’d bring more experience to a young midfield. He’s not quite as quick as he used to be but he can still pass a ball like he used to. When he plays people do look to him. I’d say all in all a decent signing.”
Hopefully he will come off the bench tomorrow to get the reception he deserves. We rarely get to say goodbye to players who serve us so well – Michael Flynn, Peter Thorne, Luke O’Brien for example – so it would be nice to get the chance to show Lee what he meant to us.