Bradford City vs Macclesfield Town preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 21 April, 2012
By Jason McKeown
Everything to play for, but really nothing at all. Bradford City need one more point to be mathematically safe from relegation; but even if they lose all three of their remaining games, it would need some mightily heavy scorelines – coupled with three mightily huge Macclesfield or Hereford wins – to be relegated. A 16 goal difference swing (or 20 for Macclesfield) just ain’t going to happen.
Nevertheless there is a need to end the campaign with a feel good factor that has been absent for much of it, and the opportunity to confirm survival by defeating second-bottom club Macclesfield tomorrow is an incentive that needs to be taken.
A few weeks back this looked likely to be a big fixture, now it is only the visitors who go into the match with genuine nerves. Having only won one game since defeating the Bantams last October – a result which at the time had placed Macclesfield just one point short of the play off spots – they look set to slide out of the league, and could be virtually relegated if they lose tomorrow and Barnet win this weekend.
Despite the easing of the pressure off City, Phil Parkinson has this week made it clear youngsters will not be thrown into the team during the final three games. The desire to go into the close season in strong form and as high up the table as possible is commendable, but it is perhaps a damning judgement on what the manager thinks of the fringe players that they won’t get a go even now. If you don’t give the likes of Dominic Rowe the opportunity during what are likely to be a meaningless final couple of games – when will you?
Rowe is an interesting case. Awarded his debut just over a year ago, the 18-year-old (who turns 19 next week) impressed greatly on the final day of the season against Crewe, and started almost every pre-season friendly last summer. He enjoyed an impressive loan spell at Barrow that earned him a two-year contract at Valley Parade, yet has not figured once in the first team all campaign. Is he going backwards, stalling, or does Parkinson simply not see youth as the answer?
Beyond youth, there is also the question of players out of contract in the summer. Simon Ramsden, Luke Oliver, Marcel Seip, Michael Flynn, David Syers, Craig Fagan, Lee Bullock, Chris Mitchell, Rob Kozluk, Matt Fry and Luke Dean are all three games away from potentially leaving the club, and we will all have our ideas on who should stay or go.
Mitchell will obviously not earn a new contact, Ramsden is a tough one but probably will probably be released, Kozluk was surely a short-term signing, while Flynn may find himself victim to the strength of the other central midfielders available. Oliver is probably the only sure-fire player to be offered a new contract, though there would be a riot if Syers was allowed to leave the club. Seip, Fry, Bullock and Fagan are in the grey area, but you suspect all four will be at Valley Parade next season.
Providing all of these out-of-contact players want to stay, there is plenty for them to play for over the final fortnight of the season. It’s good timing that Ramsden is fit again, and the injury-prone right back is playing reasonably well at the moment, bringing a calm assurance to the team. He will line up in defence tomorrow alongside Oliver and Kozluk, who strangely looks more comfortable playing out of position at left back compared to right back.
Guy Branston is a doubt for the game, and it is curious to detect a slightly negative tone in the T&A’s coverage of the big centre half’s revitalisation. Simon Parker wrote an opinion piece blasting Guy for sticking his middle finger up at the Shrewsbury crowd on Easter Monday. Some good points were made as he did, but there was no such attack on the three players sent off against Crawley. Surely that merited a harsher opinion piece?
Even news that Branston may not play tomorrow was accompanied with glowing praise for his likely replacement Bullock (deserved of course, but still). The T&A is apparently very close to the manager, and you do wonder whether the fact Parkinson may still not see Guy as part of his long-term plans dictates the tone of reporting. Or maybe Width of a Post should start writing Russian spy novels.
Matt Duke keeps goal tomorrow despite failing to convince to the level we’d hoped after his return from Northampton. It is interesting to note that – before and after his spell at Sixfields – the Cobblers form has been poor. He clearly made a huge difference when he was there, so can he grasp that number one jersey at Valley Parade?
In midfield Parkinson has found the right balance with Ricky Ravenhill and Ritchie Jones – long may that continue. That said, some game time for Syers would be welcome and there is a huge sense of disappointment felt at how his season has gone. Perhaps we just write it off completely now, give him a new contract and allow him to get a proper pre-season behind him? Kyel Reid and Craig Fagan will continue on each flank, having both impressed greatly last week.
James Hanson and Nahki Wells will again be up front tomorrow, with the latter closing in on the former’s leading scorer tally of 13. Where this all leaves Chris Dagnall – who has impressed to a degree since joining on loan, but has failed to get on the same wavelength of team mates – is uncertain. But if we go into next season with these three and Ross Hannah as our striking options, we should be set up well.
The seven day gap between Northampton last weekend and Macclesfield tomorrow is the longest space between matches since early February, so it was a good job that City went into the extended break generating a positive mood from winning. Having all but preserved Football League status, the challenge over the last three games is to preserve the feel good status.