Northampton Town vs Bradford City preview
@Sixfields on Saturday 14 April, 2012
By Mark Scully
Easter Monday’s narrow 1-0 defeat away at Shrewsbury Town added to the misery the Bantams are currently enduring on their travels at the moment, the last away goal was in the defeat to AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday 13March and that was an own goal from the Dons. The last time a City player found the back of the net away from home was Nahki Wells at Barnet in the 4-0 rout way back on Tuesday 28 February.
After beating the Bees, I generally thought Bradford would kick on – but failings against so-called lesser sides has undermined the season as a whole, both home and away.
The defeat against the Shrews followed on from fruitless trips to Dagenham, Wimbledon, Aldershot, Crewe and Plymouth. Aside from the Wimbledon match, all the others have been narrow 1-0 defeats which would suggest City are not a million miles away from being a successful side. You look at the goals City have conceded, against the Daggers it was a stunning free kick that beat City; Aldershot was a scrappy effort, as was the goal Shrewsbury scored on Monday. Crewe was a penalty and at Plymouth the lad had the freedom of Home Park…it’s not as if sides are having to work overly hard to put the ball in the back of Bradford’s net.
Looking back at Monday’s game once again I left feeling frustrated. Our opponents, up at the top challenging for promotion, to be honest looked quite average. A soft goal decided the match; in a game where both sides failed to create much. The best chance of the game fell to Craig Fagan who missed a sitter shortly before half time, when it looked easier to score than miss. If that had gone in it might well have been a different game.
The arrival of Kyel Reid in the second half didn’t really muster the impetus that both the manager and fans would have liked. In my opinion, probably ever since Jack Compton left at the turn of the year, 9 times out of 10 it is Reid who is the side’s main creator. If that doesn’t happen then the Bantams are stumped; no surprise City struggle scoring goals with a team so un-balanced. The likes of Deane Smalley, Will Atkinson and Fagan haven’t produced the goods on a consistent basis down the right hand side, if they had then the pressure on Reid to produce wouldn’t be as strong as it currently is.
People that know me will be aware I’m not a member of the Craig Fagan fan club. At times he has looked the part and played well. And whilst he isn’t a right winger, he has had to play there for the good of the team. To be honest, in the few games he has played up top he has looked a threat, but is he any better than the James Hanson/Wells partnership that I believe works quite well? I suspect not.
I find Fagan a frustrating player. Clearly he has ability and, having played at a much higher level, I would have thought his contribution to a side in League Two would be more than he has provided. Compared to that of Andrew Davies, who might well have been sent off three times this season but is a classy player who stands out at this level…why can’t Fagan do the same?
Fagan and City travel to fellow strugglers Northampton Town tomorrow, who only a few weeks ago looked destined to be kicking off next season in the Blue Square Premier but have now found some form. It took Cobblers Manager Aidy Boothroyd a while to shape the side, but the influx of January recruits he signed appears to have done the trick for them.
Our very own Matt Duke apparently played very well in his loan spell. Boothroyd also signed Preston defender Clarke Carlisle, who has helped shore up a defence that was leaking goals for fun. Up front the powerful figure of Adebayo Akinfenwa has been amongst the goals and has propelled himself into the top three of the divisions scoring charts.
There’s no doubt this will be another tough game and, given Bradford’s current away form, the bookies would probably have this one down as a home banker. But given the news earlier this week that City have only received a £9,000 fine for the fracas that marred the Crawley Town game, and no points deduction, there must be a weight off the club’s mind. Maybe the pressure might be eased slightly and City can go out and play their own game.
A win for either side will secure safety and, even if Bradford, lose the fact that they go into this weekend’s game 7 points clear of the relegation places with 12 points to play for – and with a significantly better goal difference than their rivals – I have no doubt they will stay up.
The Cobblers come into the match in decent form and are unbeaten at the Sixfields since Saturday 25th February, when Port Vale walked away with all three points. Bristol Rovers, Aldershot and Oxford have all since left empty handed, whilst Plymouth only took a point. The hosts are currently in decent form, beating Oxford on Good Friday before losing last time out against champions-elect Swindon 1-0 on Easter Monday.
Normally I’d be suggesting Phil Parkinson would make changes galore as he has previously done, but having seen both games over the Easter programme I don’t see the need to alter the team that much.
I’d personally bring Luke Oliver back in for Lee Bullock. The latter has done a decent job covering in the absence of both Oliver and Davies, but given how well big Luke has played this season I think it would be difficult to leave him out now he’s available again. Aside from that the only other change to the starting eleven from Shrewsbury would be to bring Reid in for Michael Flynn, so City can have that attacking threat down the wing.
City can go down to Northamptonshire and return with maximum points, hopefully Parky will set out the team to attack and I’ll go for a 3-1 win that will effectively secure Football League status ahead of a promotion push next season.