City’s Premier challenge – last one out, turn off the lights

City exit Valley Parade after defeating Burton Albion in the previous round of the League Cup

Wigan Athletic vs Bradford City League Cup preview

Tuesday 30 October, 2012

By Phil Abbott

Such is life; there are more questions than answers. That is, at least for now. City are completing their buildup to another epic Capital One Cup night, this time at Premiership hosts Wigan Athletic. As I ponder the pre-match soundings, there are a number of questions that will have unknown answers until late on Tuesday night, and it’s the ‘not knowing’ that adds to the tension of what promises to be a tough night for the depleted Bantams ranks.

There are however a number of certainties too. For one, the Claret and Amber army of 5,000 supporters will be making a heck of a noise at kick off time, pummelling the Latics’ nervous few into vocal submission. Such were the concerns that the City fans would outnumber their Premier League opponents, that the Wigan club had seemingly done everything they could midweek to NOT provide additional tickets to the City faithful. Indeed, the extent they went to once city sold their allocation by only selling home tickets to ‘historical fans’ is surely of more bother and annoyance to potential newcomers wanting to watch Premiership Wigan at an affordable price, than opening another stand for the remaining Bradford supporters?

Another certainty is that, due to work and location, I am resigned to listening to the game from the comfort of my driver’s seat, parked in Nottinghamshire’s only Radio Leeds hotspot – by chance at home in my garage. I’ve done this for the two other City games I’ve not been able to make this season, including that remarkable comeback at home to Burton in the last round. (City are two unbeaten on that lucky charm!)

On those two issues, there is certainty in their answer, but what about the further myriad of unanswered posers? Where do we start?

Which City players will be available?

With City’s largely solid centre back pairing of Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies almost certainly sidelined, many City fans will be dreading the carnage that could ensue if Wigan put out a decent line-up. With Kyel Reid still sidelined and Craig Forsyth cup-tied, City’s difficult task will be made even more acute by the absence of Ricky Ravenhill who begins a 3 match suspension for his role in Burton’s answer to WWF ringside.

At best, the defence will be makeshift, possibly combining Rory McArdle, James Meredith and Stephen Darby with a midfielder papering over the cracks – Nathan Doyle perhaps? It may be though that Phil Parkinson gives young recruit Carl McHugh a high profile shot instead.

The midfield conundrum is a little more competitive, with both Gary and Ritchie Jones having an outside chance of a start although lacking any sort of match fitness. I’d be surprised if Will Atkinson doesn’t appear in the starting lineup, as he has been a cup favourite for Phil Parkinson this season in centre midfield. Wells may return up front, with the unlucky Alan Connell, missing out again. On that basis, the starting lineup could read something like this:

Duke – Darby – McArdle – McHugh – Meredith – Hines – Doyle – Atkinson – Thompson – Wells – Hanson

Your guess is as good as mine!

How seriously will Wigan be taking this game?

The Latics slid on a couple of cup banana skins last season, away at Crystal Palace and Swindon. It’s likely that there will be a number of squad players introduced on Tuesday, but their calibre will surely be enough to avoid another slip up at home to the Bantams. Scottish international James McArthur will definitely miss the game as he serves a one match ban for picking up a 5th yellow card in their win over West Ham on Saturday. Had this been a 3rd round game without a potentially money spinning quarter-final at stake, Wigan may have rested more players. However, it sounds like a strong match day squad will be put together to ensure a smooth passage for the Lancastrians.

What will constitute a creditable performance for City?

In truth, it’s a tough question to answer until the team sheets have been submitted. With a strong Wigan side pitched against a depleted City squad, the feeling amongst fans following the weekend troubles is that we just need to avoid a walloping. To be fair, whilst we all want a City victory, I think most and will be glad of an entertaining game with no injury or suspension emanating from the team’s best efforts.  If City are within a couple of goals come full time, credit will be ours, and the quest for league glory can once again continue… after an FA Cup visit to Northampton!

Will the referee be the main talking point of the game?

For those of us who witnessed Billericay’s No.1 sports personality,  Mr Andy ‘Mary Rose’ D’Urso complete his overly augmented sinking to the depths of refereeing oblivion on Saturday, I’d certainly hope that a performance of greater calibre could be produced by the officials on Tuesday. The complete lack of consistency frustrated both teams who were never able to second guess his next move. For someone so ‘experienced’, he was well and truly fooled on too many occasions.

My hope is that Roger East and his officials at Wigan are there to be an auxiliary to a fine game of football, and not one needing a spotlight following their show-stopping ‘performances’. Too often, big games similar to City’s visit to the DW end with no rub of the green to the lower team. As it goes, having indulged in a Sky Sports ‘Super Sunday’ viewing this weekend, it appears even the top referees are lacking the accuracy that we fans crave of officials.  Roger East, appointed to this game, has three Premier League matches under his belt and is somewhat a new kid on the block at the top. Who knows what might happen?

How will it all end?

In all, I really can’t see an upset, however much I’d love to prophecy one. A 3-1 loss is about the best I can see in reality, but never say never!  Good luck City and the massed band of followers belting the City tunes from behind the goal. I will be in the garage, head to the speakers, coat hanger in the air, whilst my dodgy analogue radio signal receives and broadcasts largely white noise, with a subtle hint of Claret and Amber!

Categories: Previews

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1 reply

  1. Why not sign up for the Bantams’ player for such games? Worth the £38/year it costs for the extra highlights, video interviews and access to live commentary online.

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