Northampton Town vs Bradford City FA Cup preview
@Sixfields Stadium on Saturday 3 November, 2012
By Mark Scully
Suddenly on Wednesday evening, out of nowhere, I found myself having a lot of time and respect for two people. One being Dwight Yorke, and the other being Alan Smith, who had just delivered the dream ticket to all Bradford fans. I was only just climbing back down the stairs from cloud nine after the previous night’s activities, only to turn around and go back up. I’m pretty sure the neighbours wondered what was going on.
The draw could only of been bettered in my opinion had the game been at the Emirates; from a financial benefit point of view given that a bigger crowd would have generated us even more money than what we stand to make from the tie at home. But the thought of seeing a full Valley Parade for the first time in over a decade is a prospect I am relishing.
Despite the huge highs of both Tuesday night at the DW Stadium and then the draw on Wednesday, they have been played out to a backdrop of gloom regarding the solid defensive partnership of Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies been ripped apart. Oliver out for 9 months, and Davies expected to be out for 4 months – this has thrown a massive curveball into Phil Parkinson’s plans. The cup run will now generate significant funds that should enable Parky to strengthen in the January sales, with the centre of the defence being high on the list for target areas.
Away from the League Cup, the Bantams take their first steps into this season’s FA Cup. Last season we reached the third round and played Watford away. However, personally I am not bothered about the FA Cup this season. Every year, as a lower league club, you enter the cups in the hope of landing the big club and with it a lucrative pay day. That is now going to happen, given the fact we are welcoming Arsenal to Valley Parade. Don’t get me wrong, if we could reach the third round or better again in this season’s FA Cup I’d be delighted, but by the same token if Parky opted to rest some key players for the fixture at Northampton and we lost I wouldn’t be to bothered as the bigger picture of getting promotion is key and some players will be in need of a deserved rest.
After the defeat to Burton, where the City players had to put in a real shift after Ricky Ravenhill was wrongly sent off, and coupled with the outstanding efforts of Tuesday night, some players will need a break. Personally I’d rather lose at Northampton with the reserves and beat Chesterfield in the league with our first team – which game is more important? Definitely Chesterfield, and the opportunity to keep the pressure on the top three needs to be taken next Tuesday night.
The return to the Sixfields Stadium comes only just over a week after Bradford took three points away from Aidy Boothroyd’s men under the lights. Nahki Wells scored the only goal that night, which saw the Bantams dominate the home side and get the deserved win. Davies and Oliver that night marshalled a strong powerful front two of Adebayo Akinfenwa and Clive Platt, and it’s a tough ask for Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh to do the same – the latter has been outstanding since coming into the side at half time against Burton last Saturday. If our new central partnership can keep the two strikers quiet, then of course it will give hope that Bradford can yet again come away with a cup win.
On the injuries front, it’s not only Bradford who have suffered badly this week. The Cobblers have lost Ashley Nicholls out for the season with a broken leg. The midfielder suffered the horrendous injury whilst putting Northampton 1-0 up against Port Vale last Saturday. Nicholls had been in superb form since arriving from Walsall in the summer, and will no doubt prove a big setback to Boothroyd’s plans for the rest of the season.
Looking at what the gaffer might have available to him for Saturday’s game. I think changes are a given from the last few games. Looking at it, doubts currently are cast over the fitness of Wells, Zavon Hines and McArdle; and if any of them are rated 50/50 I really wouldn’t risk them. It’s not a must win fixture in my eyes, so there’s no need for any silly decisions to be taken over making a potential injury any worse.
I’d expect the back five to retain their places from the Wigan game. In midfield I can see young Adam Baker getting a run out in place of Hines. Zavon ran himself into the ground and I think will be used off the bench at the Sixfields if he is available. If Ritchie Jones is available then I suspect he will get a run out in place of Nathan Doyle, with Gary Jones held back for his first start back from injury for the Chesterfield game.
Up top I’d rest James Hanson: the big man has covered a lot of ground in the last couple of games and really has put some shifts in. With Wells suffering from a tight hamstring, there isn’t a need to risk him so I’d push Garry Thompson up top alongside Alan Connell. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the next few weeks Connell hits a scoring run, given the fact we have just drawn his boyhood idols in the Quarter Final of the League Cup.
So it wouldn’t surprise me if we exit the FA Cup at the first time of asking this time around, but that isn’t being negative. If we take our A-Game down to Northampton then we are more than capable of winning – as shown just over a week ago. But after a tough couple of games and the amount of effort put into the Wigan one especially, it’s natural that players will need a rest and I personally see this Saturday as the ideal fixture to give certain players a break to recharge the batteries.
Hopefully we can get the result with a few players watching from the stands. But if we don’t, we can get back to concentrating on what really matters this season. And that’s getting promotion out of League Two, and the battle to do that will restart next Tuesday evening.