Fleetwood Town vs Bradford City preview
@Highbury Stadium on Saturday 2 February, 2013
By Mahesh Johal
After the emotion of reaching our first League Cup Final at Wembley, the commotion about the hoops and the tickets, Bradford City finally return to league action tomorrow.
There have been many talking points since our last league game against Oxford. Our heroic performance at Villa Park saw us become the toast of English football. Since that famous Tuesday night, all talk has revolved around the forthcoming trip to Wembley. The club’s proposal for a commemorative Final shirt caused uproar. The club listened and it has since been announced that City will be donning black shorts and socks with the traditional claret and amber top. This week’s release of Cup Final tickets has seen Wembley fever reach new heights with ticket sales been estimated above the 16,500 mark.
In the week and a half since Villa Park, there has been no mention of the league. Every City fan, including myself, has been infatuated with Wembley. Obtaining tickets on Wednesday was the most relieved I have felt since getting my tickets for Villa Park. In a way, we have forgotten about the league.
City’s league form has been disappointing. Our defeat to Oxford was the third in four, and caused us to slip out of the play off reckoning. Disgruntled fans have only stayed quiet due to Cup success. But in all reality, City need to improve in the league. It has been said the money from this cup run can help keep this team together for a promotion push next year. I for one hope this means a promotion push out of League One. City have everything in place now to go up this season.
With two league games postponed, City’s starting eleven have only played once in three weeks. Against Crewe in the JPT, Phil Parkinson named a fringe side, with only a handful of regular starters getting a run out. The squad have since escaped the cold weather and have recharged in the Tenerife sun. The transfer rumours circulating Nahki Wells have been untrue and City start February with their star man.
After settling down against Villa in the second half, City oozed with confidence. For all the talk of Villa missing opportunities, City had several of their own to kill the tie. After slaying three Premier League teams, City should not fear any team in this league. This should include the big spenders, Fleetwood Town.
Sitting outside the play off zone on goal difference, Fleetwood come into the game after sweeping away Oxford 3-0. The Cod Army have strengthened this January, with the record signing of striker Jamille Matt, veteran Paul McKenna and ex City striker Gareth Evans. Evans’ celebration against City this season will see him targeted by the travelling fans. The real intrigue though will lie in the battle between McKenna and Gary Jones. McKenna is highly talented and experienced player. Aged 35 and playing in the Championship only two months ago, he could be a real coup for Fleetwood.
Unlike Fleetwood, the transfer window has been quiet for City. The lack of a marquee singing indicates to me that Parkinson feels his squad is strong enough to get out of this league. Some of the new faces may get a run out at Fleetwood, with Andy Gray and Alan Connell fighting it out to potentially replace James Hanson. Hanson was colossal against Villa and he finally got the praise he deserves from City fans. But his toe injury is a concern. If City are to do the unthinkable against Swansea, Hanson has to play. The management of his playing time is key. I hope he does play this weekend, but with games coming thick and fast, I would not be surprised to see Hanson rotated.
Gray seems to be favoured by Parkinson, though his performance against Crewe worries me. Gray won very few headers and, when clean through on goal, his lack of pace – and maybe confidence – was evident. Admittedly, it was his second game for the club and he has had little playing time this season. Connell is a very neat player but I do not see him as a starter. His lack of physicality was on show at Crewe, but he does have a knack of scoring goals.
If Hanson does not play, I would prefer to see the vastly improved Garry Thompson up front. Thompson has shown he has goals in him, and appears a target man for goal and free kicks. He may lack the intimidation of Hanson, but he could be the one to aid Nahki Wells the most.
The midfield make up will be an interesting area for City. Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle should continue in the centre, yet the wingers’ selection is not so easy to predict. One would presume that Will Atkinson and Zavon Hines will start. Both were excellent against Villa, with Atkinson’s industrious work out on the left flank being a key to our success. Zavon has shown flashes of brilliance of late and City will hope he can continue this. The concern for me is Kyel Reid. Back from injury, Reid showed his worth with his match winning delivery against Accrington. However, in my opinion his goal against Crewe masked a disappointing performance. Maybe he needs more recovery or playing time. But his no shows in both semi final legs must mean something?
Is an 18-year-old Blair Turgott really a better impact player than Reid? Also, Thompson’s introduction at Villa indicates that he is higher in the pecking order. Reid is City’s X Factor. We need him to perform but his lack of playing time intrigues me.
Michael Nelson may get the nod if Parkinson feels the need to rest either Carl McHugh or Rory McArdle. Stephen Darby should continue at right back whilst I hope Curtis Good continues on the left. The extension of his loan suggests City are happy with the Australian. A very good footballing defender, Good showed tremendous composure in the second half after a tough opening spell against Villa. If not Good, Ryan Dickson will play. Matt Duke will remain in goal.
After all the cup glamour, City fans would be forgiven for thinking a trip to Highbury was another Premier League cup tie. It is not. It is a league game in the fourth division. City have proved they are a bigger and better than this. However, the table does not lie. City need to start performing in the league if they want to make this the most unforgettable season ever.