Can Santa Parkinson deliver the perfect Christmas present? City take on Rochdale

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Bradford City vs Rochdale preview

@ Valley Parade on Saturday 29 December, 2012

By Rob Craven

Phil Parkinson must have been a good lad again this year as Santa delivered another three Boxing Day points for City in a hard fought encounter against Accrington Stanley that has left us in 5th place in the league and only 3 points from the automatic spots, with one game to go this calendar year.

One year ago I was again sat beaming about a City victory that I had just witnessed at Valley Parade, as we were provided with plenty of Christmas cheer after romping home against eventual promotion winners Crewe Alexandra. It wasn’t so much the 3-0 result that day that left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside, but the great display of our defence and the early blossoming of Phil Parkinson’s plans for us all during his reign at Valley Parade.

12 months later and we all know how these plans have bloomed making us into a team that acts like a tireless machine, with small cogs running all over the park. The overall performances might not currently be the prettiest any of us have witnessed, but this set of City players are really digging in when it counts and are grinding out results. Previously, we would have let our heads drop and accept the inevitable loss of two or, even worse, three points.

This difference in attitude has ensured that we are not physically bullied in our own backyard, and that we don’t fall short to the frustrating tactics that are often deployed by teams who come to Valley Parade to pinch a point or late win. Teams like Accrington Stanley, for example.

Part of this difference in attitude is down to a higher calibre and more experienced central midfield pairing. Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones have brought a quality to City that we could have only dreamed of a few seasons ago. They are the type of footballers that make me want to wear the full replica kit and head down to my local park to play footy with my pals, and I am 30.

Now I’m not about to start a Gary Jones or Nathan Doyle love in, but if there is one set of supporters that will understand my strangely strong feelings for one of our midfield pair it will be our guests on Saturday. Gary Jones was a servant to Rochdale for years, playing over 450 games making him their equivalent of our Stuart McCall – which will certainly add some extra spice to the game and an extra ounce of emotion for him.

Both Gary Jones and assistant manager Steve Parkin will welcome their old club into their new backyard on Saturday; the first time City have played Rochdale in the league since Dale took a trip to the heady heights of League One two seasons ago. Since rejoining us in their all too familiar League Two surroundings this season, they have struggled to gain any consistent form and are currently sat in 13th in the table.

This is probably down to the fact that Rochdale have, like City last year, endured managerial issues and their current boss is struggling to get his team moving in the right direction. John Coleman brings his team to Valley Parade having only won one of their last six league games. This, however, is certainly no guarantee that it will be a walk in the park for the Bantams.

Rochdale have scored no fewer than 13 goals in the previous six games, despite only accumulating three points. Their problems seem to lie in their leaky defence which has shipped 17 goals over the same period. City will need to be at their best defensively and firing on all cylinders up front, with Gary Jones showing Rochdale what they are missing, to take the last available spoils from 2012.

The line up for City shouldn’t change too drastically from Wednesday’s outing. Despite one instance of lost concentration, the defence will stay as it was with Matt Duke keeping his place in goal, James Meredith and Stephen Darby the full backs and Rory McArdle and Tom Naylor/Carl McHugh at centre back, depending on McHugh’s calf strain.

Gary Jones and Doyle will make up the centre midfield, but the winger situation is becoming a tricky one to guess. Kyel Reid made his league comeback against Accrington and impressed during his short spell, providing the cross for Connell’s winning goal. Will Atkinson had worked hard before being brought off for Reid and Garry Thompson scored a great goal to put City 1-0 up. Zavon Hines had impressed up front before he was taken off with an eye injury, and had earlier been brought down by an overzealous tackle which lead to Thompson’s goal. A good headache for Phil and Steve over who to select, and I would have no issues with any combination of the above.

Up top James Hanson was great against Accrington, providing the flick for Thompson’s strike and will start again on Saturday. His partner? Connell certainly did his chances no harm and Hines was, as I mentioned, impressive. If Nahki Wells has fully recovered from his bug, then he may start from the bench again.

If this Christmas was said to be a guide post as to how we can expect City to finish, then we are in for a very exciting latter half of the season. That being said, I must not get too far ahead of myself and instead enjoy the Christmas success that Phil Parkinson and his team have provided so far. And hope that the perfect Christmas present provided on Boxing Day can be delivered again tomorrow – taking us flying high into 2013.



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7 replies

  1. VensleyWhen you look at the squad it’s never an issue who plays.
    Gary Thompson is finally showing what a good player he is ,scoring important goals linking up well with the forwards when attacking!.
    Where do we strengthen in January’?
    Some supporters say we need a player in the mould to James Hanson ,a target man who is a better goal scorer than Hanson?.
    I really look round at our level and don’t see a player who’s as effective as James Hanson is.
    It’s not like Hanson’s performances are below par !! He’s assisting with goals and helping

    • I’m a big Hanson fan but I can see the benefit of bringing in another big forward in January. I agree that I don’t see a better target man in League 2, but I think Parky will look to try and pick up someone with higher division pedigree who can do the flick on/hold up role that James does so well, but can also score more goals than James does – ie a step up in quality. This will cost money, but the cup run gives us that unexpected luxury.
      With Reidy and Zav coming back in (and Thommo’s form improving rapidly) we should get more crosses into the box than we have been doing lately – it would be good to have another big man in there in case James’ relative goal drought continues. There might also be times when we would want to play two big forwards against defences lacking height. Also, if Hanson were to get injured for the rest of the season we’d struggle without cover. Connell is good but he likes to drop deep and I wouldn’t want us to be without a big centre forward.

      • Good point Steve.
        May I suggest a name ?
        Leon Clarke from Charlton ?
        He’s scored 11 goals in 14 games on loan at Scunthorpe this season
        He’s big can hold the ball up , scores goals , and on the market? Maybe loan till end of season ?

  2. Think you may find that Parkinsons renaissance has more to do with an increased budget and the apointment of Steve Parkin. A manager who couldnt buy a result last year due to poor man management and having favourites. Non of the pivotal players, apart from Davies and Reid have been Parkinson signings, and players like Atkinson were shite until Parkin came on board. Steve Parkin, the next manager of Bradford City.

    • Hmmm…well the first thing to say about this comment is I would agree with the idea of Parkin becoming the next manager of Bradford City. Were PP tempted away, Parkin is the only contender, for me, to carry on the progress,

      However, your attempt to attribute the credit to Parkin for this season’s upturn is completely flawed by the fact Parkin joined City under PP a week after he became manager (September 2011). he was assistant manager last season when all the so-called bad man management you talk about occurred. He was here when Atkinson was not playing well. I’m not sure when you think Parkin joined, but you are mistaken.

      I don’t really understand the need to attack Parkinson, but you’re the first person I’ve heard do so in a long, long time.

      • Because i dont possess rose tinted specs Jason. With the budget and players available we should be points clear. And I speak as a 40 gane a ssason man.

      • If ever there is a sign that City are in a slump it is surely the re-emergence of the phrase ‘rose-tinted specs’.

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