Bradford City Vs MK Dons preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 22 February, 2014
By Gareth Walker
When Bradford City were victorious at Stadium MK back on the 23 November, it ended a run of seven games without a win. It provided hope that we had come through our sticky period, and that we could get back on track for a push up the table. Unfortunately it was a false dawn as the Bantams followed up that 3-2 victory with a further 13 winless games. The overall stat, before last Tuesday night, was one victory in 21 games.
Yet the last-gasp win against Port Vale in midweek threw the monkey off our backs once more. The collective sigh of relief that we all felt when Carl McHugh’s header hit the back of the net was like a weight being lifted off the shoulders of the entire club. As the Kop bellowed out its new chant proclaiming that “all we care about is BCFC”, it was like we were finally coming out from a dark place and could see the light once again.
Nobody wants to go back.
The three months that we spent under that dark cloud were making everybody miserable, and it was starting to create divisions in our supporter base. It harked back to our days of struggle at the wrong end of League Two. Certain players were coming in for a lot of criticism, arguments could be heard between supporters in the stands, and there were an increasing number of fans who were starting to turn against the manager.
Hopefully, this time we have left that behind for good. Hopefully, the defeat at Carlisle last week will prove to be like our Exeter moment of last season.
Nobody is saying that we can bounce back and achieve promotion in the same way that we did last year, but let’s try to use the quick recovery from the Carlisle low point as an opportunity to finish the season strongly.
The defeat at Brunton Park was when things really came to a head. It was sad to see every City player other than Adam Reach booed at the end of that game. Despite our dominance of possession, we looked a side who were desperately short of ideas and the Cumbrains’ goalkeeper only really had one save to make all evening. Fans were getting angry in the away stand and for the first time it seemed that those who were turning against Phil Parkinson had a really loud voice.
Personally I didn’t join them. Despite being someone who has never been as pro-Parkinson as others, I would not condone sacking him at this point in the season. The three-year contract that he and his coaching team signed last year make any debate about his faults one that is pointless having, in my opinion. And that is before you even take into count our desperately poor track record of hiring and firing managers in such situations.
It was comforting therefore for me, as I’m sure it was for many others, that the Port Vale game was the absolute opposite of the Carlisle one – it was like a breath of fresh air in comparison.
This was more like a Phil Parkinson performance from a Phil Parkinson team. The high tempo and the pressing were back in our game, and the big players in our side came to the fore once more. Reach continued his impressive form, and Gary Jones has looked re-born since the second half of the Sheffield United game. Andrew Davies is back and Nathan Doyle had his best game in ages. The late 1-0 victory was the least that we deserved.
It is these positives that lead me to be confident that this long overdue victory will prove to have a more long-term effect on our fortunes than our last one.
Much has changed since that last meeting with MK Dons. None of City’s scorers from that day will play in Saturday’s game for a start. Kyel Reid has that long-term injury, Nahki Wells – who also gave a penalty away that day – has been sold, and Jason Kennedy has gone out on loan to Rochdale to be replaced by the impressive looking Matty Dolan and Chris Atkinson. Bantams fans will be hoping that Wells’ replacement, Aaron Mclean, finally gets a decent opportunity to open his account for the club, in what looks like being quite an open game.
MK Dons have undergone changes too, having lost loan striker Patrick Bamford to Derby and recruited former Leeds and Southend winger Ryan Hall, amongst others. They are currently unbeaten in their last three games, having previously been on a poor run of only having won one in eight.
There are still things for City supporters to be concerned about and everything isn’t quite rosy in the Bantams garden just yet. Personally I have concerns about our goalkeeping and left back positions, where at the very least we lack some proper competition and cover. These issues in particular are difficult to understand, considering how over-stocked we are in the centre back and wing positions.
However, I have hope that Parkinson can be successful in solving our outstanding problems; especially if we can succeed where we failed last November in backing up Tuesday’s victory with another decent result.
After City’s last game against the Dons it looked like we had ended the hoodoo. This time, the return fixture has to be seen as an opportunity to well and truly lift the curse.