The desire to regret nothing apart from today

Bradford City 1

Wells 14

Oxford United 2

Rigg 19, Levan 90 (pen)

Saturday 12 January, 2013

By Jason McKeown

It is afternoons such as these where you wish you hadn’t bothered. That you’d found something, anything, to do that was less mood-crushing than this. Shopping even.

It’s not the familiar numbness of anger and despair about a dismal home defeat which grates, but the fact you have been forced to allow that bubble of unbridled joy from beating Aston Villa to be burst. That feeling from Tuesday: it seems like I have been walking on air for the best part of the week. That feeling from Tuesday: I wanted to enjoy it for a lot longer this. Instead, now we have to face reality.

A reality that the credibility of Bradford City’s promotion ambitions is facing its sternest test of the season so far, the results of which are not looking promising. A second successive home defeat today, made doubly worse by the fact that – just like Rochdale last time out at Valley Parade – it was utterly deserved. There may be a genuine level of doubt over the validity of the awarding of a last minute penalty that Oxford won the match from, led by manager Phil Parkinson, but no one could argue City merited even a point. That is troubling.

As we filed out of Valley Parade at the final whistle with boos ringing around the stadium, my thoughts turned back to a couple of months ago when we were having all that fun from still being in all three cup competitions. “I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt us” was the sentiment of that time, in recognition of the number of extra hours work being asked of a small squad. Haunt us? I’m sure that today I could see the ghosts of Wigan, Northampton and Hartlepool peering over the Midland Road Stand and laughing.

It was always going to be felt down the line, the tiring effects of those heroics. Though perhaps we didn’t expect it to be felt quite so soon. And all those injuries. Plus they keep occurring in different parts of the team. “I can’t wait until Kyel Reid is back” was the phrase of November. Now we hope that the illness keeping James Meredith in hospital clears up, and clears up quickly. A different hole found in that leaky bucket. If only everybody could get, and stay, fit.

Even amongst the players well enough to take the field today, fatigue was evident. Parkinson kept faith with the Villa approach – one that has served him so well all season – rather than revert back to the diamond formation that featured against Morecambe and Barnet. After turning down the chance to talk to Blackpool on Friday, the manager got a hero’s reception as he walked down the touchline for kick off. He made a point of applauding all four stands back. It was all set up for a day of triumph. This Oxford lost were rubbish at their place last September. 5-0. Easy.

When Michael Duberry and Wayne Brown got caught up in an awful tangle – the defender heading the ball back to the keeper, only to fail to realise that the keeper had come out to collect it – an empty net beckoned for Nahki Wells and the chance was taken. It seemed as though that easy afternoon, despite its slow start, was going to materialise. But five minutes later Sean Regg was afforded time on the edge of the box to slam home an impressive volley past Matt Duke, and City never found the urgency, drive and spirit to raise their game.

Partly due to tiredness, but also largely down to a mental challenge. The players had given everything on Tuesday against a Premier League packed full of quality. Psychologically, how do you raise your game to such levels again, knowing the opposition should be much easier to defeat? How do you get back to that intensity? Particularly after a week where every man and his dog that has an interest in football has been loudly patting you on the back?

You can’t blame them really. These players are human. And not only are they human, they are League Two footballers. If they could perform as well as they did on Tuesday every game, they wouldn’t be here in the first place. Tuesday’s colossal achievement allowed them the opportunity to feel good about themselves and enjoy the moment – why shouldn’t they? Getting back to it, the drudgery of lower league life, that’s not easy. But let’s give them a break on that.

Also hindering overall performance was an uninspiring debut from Andy Gray, up front in place of the resting up James Hanson (broken toe). You had to feel for the overlooked Alan Connell, and though memories of Gray’s first spell at Valley Parade suggested Gray could play the targetman, he struggled badly in this role. Gray barely won anything in the air, and looked clumsy rather than crafty with his back to goal. Hanson was badly missing today, and it affected the whole team. The ball was not sticking up front to alleviate the dominance of Oxford’s five-man suffocating midfield. Wells’ clever runs were going unrewarded.

I’ll be honest, I was against the re-signing of Gray. He’s not the type of player we needed, in my view. But he’s here now, on an 18-month contract, so we need to get the best out of him. To do that, we will need to alter our style of play and probably alter central midfield. (Gray needs someone to play behind him, and Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle do not provide that kind of option. Connell probably does, but we would need to play a narrow midfield to accommodate him, assuming Wells is a sure-fire starter.) Whether changing the style of play is for the overall benefit of the team, I’m not sure. But interchanging Hanson and Gray and playing the same way looks unlikely to work.

Gray’s failure to hold up the ball invited constant Oxford pressure, leaving Jones and Doyle rooted in front of their back four – Doyle in particular had a really poor second half. With the other debutant Ryan Dickson struggling too, Oxford were able to find space all over the final third and forced Matt Duke into a string of superb saves. Even Duke’s arch-critics attempted to downplay his exceptional display on Tuesday – the shots were all straight at him, apparently: sometimes you just have to ignore such people – but today there could be no arguments over how well he performed. What a shame it ultimately counted for nothing.

Sensing a spark was needed, Parkinson made a double substitution just after the hour, replacing Will Atkinson and the impressive Zavon Hines with Kyel Reid and Blair Turgott. But just like against Rochdale, the loss of Atkinson from the team impacts on the shape. Neither winger could find space in a congested midfield, and though City were clearly trying to win the game it was a day where a point looked a good result. Particularly with a number of close shaves: the excellent Carl McHugh cleared one Oxford effort off the line and a Rigg header came back off the crossbar.

There were two significant moments to come, however. The first Parkinson’s last throw of the dice, which saw Connell brought on for Andy Gray. Oh wait. Against expectations, he took off an ineffective Wells instead of an ineffective Gray. And crowd frustration over a poor afternoon spilled over into the booing of the City manager by some. The first time, as far as I can recall, Parkinson has received this treatment since taking charge. And this, less than 24 hours after turning down the opportunity to manage a club two divisions higher, when his own contract at City is only guaranteed until the end of the season. Unbelievable treatment. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious. The guy who has masterminded our first semi final for 102 years is being booed by City fans.

Connell’s main involvement was to tangle with Duberry over the U’s time-wasting antics – it brought both players a yellow card from a clueless referee, Jeremy Simpson, who didn’t even see what happened – but despite looking as though they had settled for a point, the visitors won it. Alfie Potter was challenged by Stephen Darby in the penalty area – from my view in the Kop it looked reckless and unnecessary on Darby’s part – and Simpson pointed to the spot. Parkinson, Rory McArdle and Duke claimed Darby won the ball. Peter Levan blasted the penalty down the middle, and that – aside from a disallowed McHugh goal in stoppage time – was that.

Is it worth it? These cup adventures. With City only four points off the automatic promotion places, you hope it’s not a question we seriously have to ponder between now and May. But there can be no doubt that these extracurricular exploits have made it more difficult for Bradford City to gain promotion. We might not have been 20 points clear at the top of League Two right now had we bowed out of each cup in their respective first rounds, but at the same time we probably wouldn’t be left eyeing up the play offs as our most realistic ambition.

There is a long, long way to go. And as such, there is absolutely no reason to panic. Yet at the end of a week where we started daring to believe we could actually make it to a major cup final, this cold douse of realism cannot be ignored. Not by the manager, and not by the Board.

Because as the pennies from the Villa games are still counted up, the January transfer window continues to offer a huge dilemma. Do we recognise the need to strengthen and use the cup windfall on another couple of players to give us a better chance of going up this year, or do we largely accept what we have, be realistic about our promotion chances and try to make sure this season’s momentum isn’t wasted?

By the latter I mean ensuring that, first and foremost, we can retain this squad of players, which have cost a considerable amount in wages, in order to go at League Two again if we don’t earn promotion, rather than having to dismantle it and tighten the belts. Let’s face it, if the play offs are our best chance, there is a 75% chance of failure. If Parkinson suddenly requires a plan B on the pitch, we sure as heck need one off it too.

The real legacy of these cup heroics should be that it gives Bradford City the financial stability which has been lacking since a wayward Italian signed a legally-binding piece of paper 12 years ago. It should provide sterner foundations and a platform for significant progress, even if that progress doesn’t quite materialise into a City promotion this time out.

And if the cup adventure can be the catalyst to a rise and rise up the leagues, it won’t have mattered that we had to wait a bit longer for success – we will never have had cause to regret Wigan, Arsenal and Villa.

City: Duke, Darby, McArdle, McHugh, Dickson, Hines (Turgott 63), Gary Jones, Doyle, Atkinson (Reid 63), Gray, Wells (Connell 79)

Not used: McLaughlin, Good, Ritchie Jones, Ravenhill

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

21 replies

  1. Totally agree with all of that. How can Gray expect to win a high ball if he doesn’t get his feet off the floor. At best he managed to get on his tiptoes. I didn’t rate him first time around and even less so now.
    As for the ref and the penalty. Jeremy Simpson, more like Homer Simpson! My view from the main stand was clearly that Darby won the ball. He took the ball clean then the lad tripped over his leg. An Oxford fan sat in their end right next to where it happened said exactly the same.
    Also, yes the players were flat today, but so were the crowd. Can we take a bit of responsibility too?

  2. Thought provoking and enjoyable article Jason, thank you; but for once, I must disagree with you a little bit.
    We have had over 10 years of disappointment and this season has just exploded;way beyond any of our wildest dreams.It would be very, very sad if we do not make it to Lg 1 this season, but actually, why do we really support our team? For me it’s about the feelings it can engender and Wigan, Arsenal and then Villa have injected at least twice the feeling of that famous day when we beat Liverpool 1-0 at home to secure Premiership safety. 3 times the feeling of winning the Lg 1 play off against Notts County and at least equal to getting promoted to the Premier League at Wolves.
    We are 90 mins from Wembley with a good manager and a great team spirit.
    In modern times, we have seen nothing like it and financially, it has probably saved the club.
    One more season in Lg 2 would be a small price to pay for such feelings, though I accept we may then struggle to keep hold of some of our players.It’s always a trade off.
    Long way to go still in the League and within this month, our Cup commitments will be decided.I am confident we will go up come May.

  3. Excellent match report Jason and whole heartedly sums this particular match upto a tea!.
    Were not playing with the same tempo and venom as we were at the start of season , our passing was poor today all over the park!
    Wingers doing more defending than attacking today.
    Full backs hoofing the ball in the air to the front two who couldn’t hold the ball up to bring our midfield into play.
    Oxfords system 5 (wing bks) -3-2 gave them more bodies in central midfield, we just couldn’t cope. Andy gray wasn’t on my list of forwards I wanted to see rolling into valley parade .
    You can see he’s so short of match practice that he looked a yard behind the pace of the game . That’s fine but not once did he run the channels or win headers that allowed the midfield to get hold of the ball in there half .he’s an experienced pro who im sure with more game time and training will become better!.
    James Hanson was missed today no question he’s wins battles something that Andy gray would struggle to do . I have to share my frustration with yet another afternoon of poor officials at valley parade ,poor for both sides I must say . There seems no fouls given against the centre halves against our forwards who were wrestled most of the game! . It’s obvious we have lost ground in our lge campaign due to our form in the cups and lets not be too hard on the players they’ve given us a season to remember and the money generated will give this club a healthy bank balance and wage budget for next season should we still find ourselves in lge 2 next season. I have heard today Mr Parkinson looking to add another 2 players ? A centre bk ,attacking midfield player the name mentioned was vardy from Leicester ?

  4. Great article again, Jason. Nice summing up of the general mix of emotions we’ve felt this week.

    Completely agree with your assessment of Gray. Today was further proof for the doubters of the importance of James Hanson.

    Your point on Duke is an interesting one. I think he’s a fantastic shot stopper, as evidenced by Tuesday night and (to a lesser extent) today, but his refusal to come for crosses and take some pressure of the defenders is a definite weakness. Can’t fault him too much though – without him I’m sure we wouldn’t be looking forward to Villa Park in 10 days!

  5. Regarding Duke….any weaknesses are more than made up by his other goalkeeping qualities, he was my man of the match today…Shay Given is another excellent goalkeeper that doesn’t come for crosses all the time. I’ve been saying for a month that BCFC need another dominant battering ram of a centre forward…today was a perfect example of this as was the Chesterfield game which is why..for me.. such a player is a priority…Akinfenwa or someone similar would be ideal. I’m afraid BCFC will not just play their way out of this truly abysmal league…there is going to have to be a very tough physical retort to the sort of tactics used by Oxford today…unfortunately we didn’t have the personel on the pitch today to match Oxfords approach to the game. The club management should take note…the officials do not protect our players in this Kazi league, other teams will simply copy the tactics used today…we need to find a way to win in such circumstances. Regarding the penalty…i need to have another look…it did look like Derby got the ball..the replay tonight will be interesting….if he did, that decision put a lid on another truly awfull display of inept officiating. Thought SOME of the crowd booing Parky for substituting Wells was some of the worst support i’ve witnessed, truly pathetic. Regarding the Capitol One Cup….if we did happen to do enough in the second leg of the capitol one cup at Villa Park to win a place in the League Cup final…i would see that as more important to have the chance of winning a first major honour for the club since 1911 than getting promotion. Of course we could do both or fail on all fronts….what ever will be will be….Just make sure you enjoy the ride…KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!!!!!!

  6. Sorry i forgot to add this….How many times have we substituted Wells and lost points…it’s a pretty frightening stat if my memory is correct. I would quite simply never substitute him unless he’s injured as he keeps the opposition defence playing deeper giving the BCFC midfield more room to play in….Phil’s an excellent manager but he needs to look at the stats regarding the substitution of our goal machine.

    • I think Wells looked fatigued and frustrated (and we have seen what he can do, re reckless challenges and bookings in that mood). Substitution at that point was I thought a good decision. More of an issue for me was that an excellent Hines was substituted earlier – why ? (and incidentally Hines can play the Wells role – he did so brilliantly at Southend before xmas) and a clearly not match fit Gray started and finished the game. What must Alan Connell be thinking? Gray is certainly no upgrade on Connell and was never going to be able to play the Hanson role. That said he was wrestled off the ball constantly and the officials were really, really poor today. At the time I thought Dickson was fouled as he headed clear for their first goal and TV confirmed that, as did the contention that Darby won the ball cleanly for the penalty.All that said Oxford deserved the win and have progressed well since we dismantled them at the Kassam. Sad to agree to it but we do have to muscle our way out of league 2 to some extent and that was evident today when we won no single pwersonal battle across the team.

      • I’m sure there were quite a few players that were feeling the effects of the Aston Villa cup game…i didn’t get the impression that Wells was feeling it any more than anyone else involved in the cup game and indeed he’s been substituted on far too many occasions when the team was on the way to collecting a point or points only for his absence to coincide with the team squandering a winning or drawing position on too many occasions. Hines was a player that could have played up top but of course he’d already been subbed. Personally in that position, i’d have been tempted to go with Reid up top as he was getting no joy out wide….basically anything to stop their central defenders from pushing up. The cardinal sin yesterday was not taking Gray off and replacing him with Connel and as you said..Hines was causing them problems…so in hindsight his substitution was not the best decision either. The biggest miss yesterday was Hanson…why we haven’t got a like for like replacement for the big man is another reason we are struggling in the league…Hanson gets no protection what so ever so having two such battering rams would make sense…giving Hanson a rest from time to time is crucial. Regarding the Crewe and Port Vale games…obviously we will play the bare minimum needed to not collect a fine on Tuesday and i’d also not play Hanson, Gary Jones, Nahki Wells and one or two others against Port Vale…making sure as many of the Villa Park starting eleven are as fresh as possible for that game.

  7. Didn’t see the game but the report outlines the dilemma for the City. Perhaps the manager and board need to sit down and review priorities for this season based on assumptions about wins and losses, recognising that a small squad will struggle to keep performing so well in so many competitions. The next three are big games for different reasons but can we continue to expect, yes expect, to be continue in the same rich vein as the season takes its toll on players. If we beat Crewe do we start to rest players to increase the chance of subsequently beating Coventry? If we win to get to Wembley can we expect the players then to give their all when an injury would deprive them of maybe the biggest day most could hope for in their footballing lives? If we challenge for everything at Port Vale what will be the risks of an officious official handing out yellow and red cards that mean the Villa game is missed?

    I’ve supported City since 1960 and not seen many promotions or cup win (West Riding cup excluded!) and I’m truly torn in my hopes for this year.

    The Capital cup has provided joy and money and having got so far perhaps we should settle for what we can still get out of it this year and use the money to keep/build a promotion team for next season. Having said that, if the worst happens at Crewe and Villa then in just over a week we’ll be concentrating on only one thing.

    Perhaps it’s time to blood some more youngsters at Crewe. I was at Brentford and thought the manager did right to introduce some youngsters – giving them a chance and giving others hope of making the first team.

    Apart from the result the only thing that disappointed me at Brentford was the attitude of Connell as he berated his team mates for his own ineffectual performance. I accept it was a difficult game playing in front of the fans of a former club and getting their boos but he could have shown more consideration for the youngsters.

    • Hi Rob,

      you articulate extremely well what is implicit in Jason’s comments in the match report, and no doubt is going through many supporters heads, certainly mine.
      PP’s dilemma is what is called a “high quality problem”.
      Frankly for what it is worth here is my view. For rest of Jan we should concentrate on 2 things – getting to the Capital One Cup Final and securing the contracts of PP, Parkin, Alamby and the quality players who are out of contract in the summer.
      Play the kids at Crewe and – yes – at Vale as well. I too was at Brentford replay – we did brilliantly until Brentford brought on the cavalry in extra time.
      And if “Daisy” Gray and Dickson are really the best available in this transfer window, STOP any talk of further signings now. As it is, almost everyone around us is on a run of indifferent form, so we could still kick on and make play-offs or better from February onwards with this squad (including our kids like Baker, Brown and Bass) without any further signings of the “calibre” of Gray. The only exception would be if we somehow could secure a real marquee signing – a potent goalscorer – for a sensible price and who isn’t Capital One cup-tied !! Must go – a pig has just flown through my window.

      • Isn’t that what Andy gray has been brought into do ? Score goals .
        I really can not see parky bringing in another striker ?

  8. For me the game highlighted massively what Hanson brings to the team, yes he doesn’t score enough goals and that frustrates me but his overall contribution is on the whole excellent. When I saw that Oxford had signed Justin Richards earlier in the week I couldn’t help but think to myself that he would have been a good signing for us having been impressed by him in the past, we got Andy Gray instead and whilst I appreciate that it was his first game he will need to do a lot better than yesterday pretty quickly. The officials in general didn’t have a clue, but what concerned me most was the failure again to cope against a side not playing 4-4-2. We don’t seem to have a plan B to out think sides who play differently and the constant high balls to Gray who was being dominated in the air lacked thought. I don’t recall a run from any of our wide players in dangerous areas, Hines showed some excellent defensive cover but was running to his own goal more often than not against their wing back. Overall very disappointing. I can’t remember the exact rules of the JPT but I’d start as many different players from yesterday as possible at Crewe, if we can change the full 11 then do so as from the players on the bench and those not involved we could put out a decent enough side and get some energy back into the legs for the games at Port Vale and Villa away, the results of which will I think go a long way to determining the shape of the remainder of the season.

  9. Might I suggest that the signing of Gray is not really as cover for Hanson but a replacement for Hannah. This would seem to make some sense I guess, especially with Thompson seemingly out for some time. A remainder-of-the-season loan of a certain Tom Eaves from Bolton would fit the bill as a Hanson cover/replacement. Just look at his record whilst on loan at Bristol Rovers until Christmas.

    • I doubt that Andy Gray would have agreed to join City simply to be back up player. He and Hanson will probably be rotated for the rest of the season, partnering Nahki. I thought Tom Eaves was outstanding when we played Bristol Rovers in November, but I seriously doubt he will now. Otherwise you’re talking about Nahki losing his place to. Unless an offer comes in for Nahki which the club accept, that should be in for striker movement.

  10. Bearing in mind that results in the next 10 days may change the focus for the rest of our season, I think PP and the Board should sit down now and look at various possible outcomes to agree a strategy for the immediate future. No “one game at a time” kop out, because with a small squad of players who can actually make things happen when they’re fresh and fit it’s no good risking everything on a vision that only goes as far as the next match.

    If I were the manager for the Crewe game I’d keep within the rules and not risk a fine or antagonism from officialdom but rest anyone who’s feeling the overload of games, anyone with enough yellow cards to be worried and the really key players who mustn’t get injured or red carded for the Villa game. Remember when City played Sheffield Wednesday at VP and Gary Megson substituted his goalie within the first minute and two further first teamers in the next 15 mins. I don’t think we should manipulate the situation like that but, within the rules, there must be opportunities for a flexible and imaginative team selection that takes into account the future demands.

    I’d also like the club to use the Crewe game as a signal to the developing players that in this competition (JPT) we’ll start to give our youngsters their chance – emulate Arsene Wenger and let people know this is where we try out our youngsters in biggish games and build for the future. By publicising and practicing this as a policy it just might encourage more talented youngsters to sign for us if they think they’ll get an early opportunity to showcase their skills and progress in what has become, for the lower divisions, a reputable competition. It would also calm the expectations (but not the hope) from some of our fans who might be kinder to the youngsters in these matches and be less vocal with their critical comments during games – if we know it’s a testing ground we can all be complimentary rather than critical in our shouting.

    This approach would make sure we had eleven players on the field who’d give everything because they’d have everything to gain (ie showing their determination, talents, confidence and willingness to try imaginative moves) rather than eleven who would still be professional, I’m sure, but who would have lots to lose and inevitably succumb to human nature and have one eye on the risk of not playing at Villa. If the selected team beat Crewe then the core of that team would have earned its two games against Coventry giving the youngsters more exposure and experience for the future and experience for settling into next year’s first team in the league, whichever one it happens to be.

    The only problem with this policy comes if there’s a Wembley trip for the JPT final and as, Ken says, that’s a “high quality problem”!

    But for the moment that’s sorted the team selection for Crewe so now consider the Port Vale game.

    Accepting that two of the automatic promotion places may be out of our grasp already let’s concentrate on what’s left. In terms of the promotion race it doesn’t matter to us if Port Vale beat us because it would take a superhuman effort from us and a series of disasters from them to enable us grab the automatic place they are currently making their own. It matters to us if we drop another 3 points but if that’s due to our key players being rested then the trade off is, in my view, acceptable. We know what our team can do when it’s fresh and full of energy so with rested players watch out Villa.

    We’ve still to play Rotherham at VP and they are catchable because when we beat them the win will bring us within 1 point of them, even if they keep winning their other games and we win ours. The final match of the season is at VP against Cheltenham so similar comments to them being catchable apply and what a final match that would be. I’m salivating already!!! Exeter appear to be on a small run of wins at the moment but their home record isn’t that great – they lost to Oxford 3-1. On our present (cup) form we shouldn’t worry about the match down there. Other than Gillingham and Port Vale no other teams have shown prolonged consistency in the promotion race and at the moment only two wins separate 6th spot from 12th. In some ways we can forget the match at Vale Park: if we win – fantastic, if we draw – great but if we lose because we’ve rested players – so what, we’ve bigger fish to fry at the moment and we can still recover to claim at least a play-off spot if not the automatic place.

    Not like the Villa Park importance but the Vale Park game is important for other things. It provides PP with the chance to see how Gray plays with our set-up, or some of it, and it gives Gray a chance to reach match fitness faster. I was disappointed when it was announced we’d bought Gray but I can see the logic of bringing in a player with such experience, although there might have been others I’d have put at the front of the queue. Whatever what’s done is done – he’s here so let PP ensure he learns how to gels with the team in the matches that are of secondary importance before he has to play in a vital match. I would have given him only part of the game on Saturday, the first half, and taken him off when things weren’t working out as hoped because it would have been good for the crowd to see a league win and the points would have been handy. It’s a lot to ask a player who’s not fully match fit, or didn’t appear to be, to play at full tempo for the all 90 minutes and with team mates who don’t know him or his style.

    As I say, I can see the logic of buying someone like Gray because the little and large combination has worked well for City in the past and is working now. I’m old enough to remember big Rodney Green and little Dudley Price being the scourge of the division and I’ve always thought that such a combination is ideal for lower divisions. I’m just so pleased we have James Hanson and Nahki Wells and the others, of course.

    Thinking about having another centre forward who’s a worker I remember the glory days and in the summer when we could have bought Mark Hughes, a player who suited our style of play and who’s all action approach would have been just what the team and fans wanted. He’d been taking his coaching badges and could have smoothly fitted into the training/management aspect of the club. That should be a lesson learnt and I hope we don’t miss such a well fitting “jigsaw piece” again. Who knows where we’d be now…

    But at the moment I’ll settle for Wembley.

    • Totally agree with your take on the next three games Rob….regarding the Port Vale game i would rest as many of the starting 11 at Villa Park as possible, i believe those squad members that do play at Port Vale are capable of getting a result but if they can’t..then like you i believe that is a price worth paying in keeping our players fresh for the Villa game on Tuesday week. Never did i ever think BCFC would have the possibility of playing in a major trophy cup final…this is without doubt too bigger opportunity not to give our fantastic players the very best chance of achieving that historic goal.

  11. Many things to be said about the game on Saturday. Villa took a lot out of us, and the league results have suffered due to our League Cup exploits. Of that I have no doubt.

    On Gray, lets give him 4 games to get up to speed. He has played at a higher level and should be good enough at our level to get a few goals. He wasnt prolific 1st time round, and wont be this time round. But to judge him after 60 odd minutes isnt fair.

    Ive said it for seasons, but Hanson is massive to our plans. We miss him when he doesnt play massivley. He might not get 20 goals a season but his commitment to the team is second to none.

    Lets look at this objectively. In L2, you dont need the much sought 2 points per game to get out of the league. Jan was always going to be touch with such a run of matches. We should have enough in our locker to get out of this league this season.

    We are only 4 points of 3rd place. 4 points. This is nothing. Everyone in our league is inconsistent. There isnt anyone we cant beat in this league.

    If we dont get up this season, then will we see the campaign as a failure? Im not sure. We have had the best cup run anyone could ever ask for, and this will set the club up for the next 3 years in the money haul alone. For the sake of the clubs development, we need Parky, we need Wells and we need League 1 football. I truely believe League 1 isnt that tough compared to League 2.

    We will be able to judge where we go next on Wed 23rd Jan and where our priorities are. We have 1 league game to get through between now and then. Vale away is a tough ask and Parky has a decision. Do we put a weakend team out for Vale to plan for Villa? And what does he do in the JPT?

    This week will show us where the clubs priorities lie and we will have a much clearer picture of what our season looks like on Wed 23rd Jan.

  12. Hi Steve, i don’t think it is a dilemma for Phil regarding the next two games. I think he has total faith in his squad as i do. We went for a quality squad not quantity at the start of the season… i fancy Hanson will not be seen til Villa Park…quite a few others will be in the same boat, that doesn’t mean we go into the two games prior to the Villa Park game with any other thought than getting two good results, everyone of those squad players are good enough to be involved in a team capable of securing positive results from Crewe and Port Vale…if they don’t get them there is no gurantee that the Villa Park starting eleven could get them either. I’m enjoying the ride this season….hopefully it’ll get even better!!!!!

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