Crewe Alexandra vs Bradford City JPT preview
@Gresty Road on Tuesday 15 January, 2013
By Joe Cockburn
It is clear for all to see that Bradford City’s success in the League Cup of late has had an adverse impact on their league form, meaning the Bantams now find themselves outside of the League Two play off positions. But on Tuesday night City visit Crewe, with a chance to forget that league form and possibly turn it around, not to mention another potential trip to Wembley.
The main thing about the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy area semi-final tie is that it gives Phil Parkinson a chance to rest some of the City players who haven’t stopped since, well, before Christmas, and they definitely need it after that mammoth effort last Tuesday. It was evident in the defeat to Oxford that the players weren’t fully charged.
The likes of Gary Jones, Nathan Doyle, Nahki Wells, Zavon Hines and Will Atkinson could all do with rests, while Rory McArdle or Stephen Darby may also be given a break, unless Parkinson wants to give Jon McLaughlin a game in goal. It’s all down to who the manager wants to pick.
I think Kyel Reid and Alan Connell will definitely come in for Hines and Wells. Atkinson may possibly start to protect the defence and midfield, if he doesn’t, Blair Turgott will start in his place, but Parkinson may deem that as being too attacking and open, for an away game against a team from a higher division. Ritchie Jones and Ricky Ravenhill will surely come in for Jones and Doyle – I think those are nailed on changes. And there are a few options in defence, but I think Carl McHugh and Ryan Dickson will both start, as they haven’t played as much as others in recent weeks.
I see the game itself as a very welcome distraction. The team need to get away from this poor league form and this gives them a chance to do so. If a second string can win, it could not only pressure the first team – whose recent failings could be attributed to the players feeling unpressured because they beat Arsenal and Aston Villa, so why should they be dropped? But it could also put the squad in good spirits. Some of these players, the likes of Reid, Tom Naylor and Jon McLaughlin haven’t played much football, and Reid especially may feel slightly hard done by on that front.
To me, the game is a win-win. Either you are victorious and you are into the area final against one of the largest teams in League One – games in which our players thrive – or you lose, and it is one less thing to concentrate on and one or two free Tuesdays in the next month. But as I said, the squad need to be kept happy, and if they lose, it’s a losing feeling throughout the whole squad, and that could be bad news going into two big games at Port Vale and Aston Villa.
Speaking of Vale, that was where we gained our place in this round of the competition, a convincing performance against Micky Adams’ high flyers saw City win by two goals to nil. That, coupled with the trip to Hartlepool in the second round (City were awarded a bye in the first round) means City have yet again this season not had the luck of the draw, but they have come through it very well.
But Crewe is a different game. Crewe are a team who are a bit sneakily very good. The danger is our players could go into this tie treating it as a bread and butter League Two game – just another a poor, small League One side. But Crewe are better than that and, if we don’t respect them, we could find ourselves on the wrong end of an absolute hiding.
As a young team though, Crewe could possibly be quite easy to keep out of the game. If we defend tightly and don’t let them in easily, and keep the ball – using Alan Connell and Andy Gray’s strengths and playing it into their feet or chest, with pace from the wings and Ritchie Jones to get up and support them, we could win this game. However, playing too many long balls up to the front two which they will never win is a pointless exercise and we will end up getting beat yet again.
This is one of a number of lessons to be learnt from the Oxford game on Saturday, along with the support from midfield when attacking, which will come with fresh legs. We also need to use our wide men, get them involved. I have been convinced by numerous Southampton fans that Dickson is excellent at bombing up that left touchline, as well as getting crosses into the box. This is something we need to use, as crosses lead to chances, and Connell and Gray are goalscorers who thrive on those chances.
I think we go into the game with nothing to lose, making it different to the league games we have struggled with recently. This also means we have more of a chance of getting something out of the game. We aren’t too confident, but it is clearly a winnable game – we’ve shown who we can beat anyway!