Gills preview 2: Time to get some league points on the board, but it won’t be easy

2013-02-02 16.06.21

Bradford City vs Gillingham preview, part two

@Valley Parade on Saturday 9 February, 2013

By Joe Cockburn

All this League Cup euphoria has meant us Bradford City fans are looking at league games with rose-tinted spectacles. Yes the cup is and has been good, but we cannot forget the main aim of this season – promotion.

We cannot forget it as it is our best chance ever to get out of this horrible division. The best squad, best manager, most money spent, all of it amounts to a must-go-up season. And we were, until the cup came along.

Yes, it has been a happy distraction, and we wouldn’t change it for anything. Beating Arsenal and Aston Villa are top in my personal (very short!) list of Bradford City highs. But right now – if possible – we need to forget about all that and concentrate on the league.

I say we are looking at it with rose-tinted spectacles, as we haven’t won in the league since Boxing Day. And Accrington is hardly a prestigious team to conquer. We lost at home to Rochdale, who not long after sacked their manager. We lost to Barnet, come on now City.

And the cup exploits suggest that the current crop of City players thrive under a challenge, and in League Two, there aren’t many more challenging than high flyers Gillingham. Especially when they are playing away from home.

Not to forget, they lost on Monday, in front of the TV cameras, so manager Martin Allen will want a real response from his players. On top of that, who wouldn’t want to beat the cup finalists? And not many League Two teams get that chance. We can expect a tough, tough challenge from them.

In terms of ourselves, Nahki Wells should be fit despite limping off at Fleetwood, which is a boost after his cracking free-kick earlier in the game. However, it must be noted he looked very disinterested up until that point, perhaps that is something that Phil Parkinson needs to address.

Not much has been said about Rory McArdle since his unfortunate injury earlier in the same game, which can only make us fans fear the worst. Michael Nelson and Carl McHugh will be a solid partnership though, after Nelson impressed in his debut at Fleetwood. And goalscorer Ryan Dickson will regain his starting berth at left-back as a result.

One problem that I think needs to be seriously addressed is the form of Nathan Doyle. Especially now Richie Jones has departed, he is lacking any real pressure on his position. He was once again a passenger at Fleetwood, and it is a good job we have Gary Jones in there doing the job of two midfielders, otherwise we would be really caught out in there. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Parkinson chose to bring in Ricky Ravenhill for this game.

I think as a home game, we have to start with at least one out and out winger, and I think Will Atkinson may be the one to suffer as a result. He was another passenger at Fleetwood, and Kyel Reid came on and did a good job down the left flank. I think we might finally get to see the return of Reid against Gillingham.

As a result, the bench could be quite strong. If one of Reid or Hines starts, we can expect Blair Turgott to return to the bench, after him and Curtis Good – who both sat out the Fleetwood fixture – signed extensions to their loan deals this week.

However, apart from Doyle, we can expect Good to be the only defensive cover available, after it seems Tom Naylor has ceased to exist.

I think this game is of paramount importance for us. We need to turn our league fortunes around. It hasn’t been good enough of late at all.

Interestingly, during my research I noticed that we have taken just 17 points from a possible 39 since the start of November. This time marks the start of our cup run (Wigan away being our last fixture in October) but it also marks the loss of Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver at Burton the Saturday prior to Wigan. I mentioned in a previous article that I thought the defence had actually improved since Davies and Oliver were ruled out for months, but does this form suggest otherwise? One to ponder anyway.

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