Bradford City travel to Devon for a week of now or never

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Plymouth Argyle vs Bradford City preview

@Home Park on Tuesday 12 March, 2013

By Mahesh Johal

Jason McKeown’s recent article made me think. The article summed up how many of us feel at present. Whether intended or not though, a question that I kept drawing out was; what type of City fan am I? Am I someone that sees the cup as half full or half empty?

I flicker between being optimistic and pessimistic when thinking about this play off push. Leaving Valley Parade on Saturday I felt like we had lost the game. For all the possession and corners, we did not get going. We had a few good shots but we did not cut the opposition apart and create a clear opening to score.

I was disappointed not to take three points from Aldershot. In my opinion they were there for the taking. I believe we were the better team and I did not feel threatened when they attacked. Our defence quelled their threat, and the only time we looked vulnerable was when we committed more men forward in search of an equaliser. Even when they had the chances, I felt confident that they would not score.

The league table does not lie and at present we are a mid-table team. However, unbeaten in four and with two games in hand, we have still have a glimmer of hope of becoming the play off team we crave. On another day, we would have capitalised on all the possession and corners and would have beat Aldershot. Fortunately for City we still have another day to play. With 11 games left there is still time to make up the nine point deficit. It gives me hope that this league is so unpredictable and so inconsistent. City have to concentrate themselves, but we can bank on the fact the others will make mistakes. Rotherham losing to Dagenham & Redbridge being a case of point.

If this team can click, the play offs is a distinct possibility. But it’s converting games like Saturday into victories which will be key. After the exertion of the cup, Phil Parkinson was justified in rotating his squad. But with this final run in, it may be worth picking our best team for every game. However, I’m unsure what that is at the moment.

James Hanson will start upfront but his partner is not so clear. With 14 league goals, I would usually say Nahki Wells. However, he has not looked his buzzing self since Fleetwood. I feel the criticism of Wells is unfair and unjust. Remember this is only his second season as a professional. At 22, a dip in form and confidence was always going to occur. It’s up to Parkinson to nurture Nahki and build him up again in the same way his did Hanson. Thankfully, Parkinson stuck by Hanson and his performances of late have been brilliant. The question is, do we have the time to let Nahki play himself back into form?

With games running out, Parkinson may start Garry Thompson. I have been very impressed with the former Scunthorpe man. His work rate and persistent nagging of defenders has seen him create and score goals. The quality of finish against Wimbledon and composure against York gives me confidence that he could ably partner Hanson on Tuesday.

The third option is Alan Connell. His link up play on Saturday added a different dynamic to the City attack. I thought his use and distribution of the ball brought our wingers into the game far more. With him on the pitch, City looked a different prospect. Whilst defenders have struggled, they seem prepared for James Hanson. With Connell added to the fray, City have an option that will make defenders think.

I would love to see Connell sit behind a front two with Gary Jones playing in a central midfield role. With the exception of Rochdale, I have not seen a team tear City apart. In defence we seem solid, with recent goals conceded from set pieces or individual error. With this in mind, could City try and play without the safety blanket of Ricky Ravehill or Nathan Doyle? Will Atkinson, who in my opinion roams more centrally than his does on the flank, could be used to cover the back four from his wing position.

Fundamentally, it is all about balance. Away from home, City have been burnt trying to play with an attacking formation before. But with wins needed, risks have to be taken. Against bottom of the table Plymouth, I except City to win. This is not me being arrogant or disrespectful to Plymouth. Instead I am confident in this side and know how good they are.

Jon McLaughlin should continue in net, as should Stephen Darby and Carl McHugh as full backs. I thought Darby was superb on Saturday and his understanding with Zavon Hines has improved with every game. Rory McArdle was solid as per usual as was Michael Nelson. If there is one criticism of the Scot, is his punting distribution. If possible, I would replace him with Andrew Davies. His composure and ability on the ball could help us build our attack from the back.

In midfield, Hines should start on the right. He has been our most potent attacker of late, and with Darby, has caused endless problems for opposing teams. If we are to play with two central midfielders Gary Jones will probably be teamed with Ravenhill again. I would like to see Doyle back in the side. Over used in the past months, he should hopefully be fully refreshed and back to his bustling best after a time on the bench. On the left flank it will be between Atkinson and Kyel Reid.

As mentioned I sit between the two binary’s. After this week though, you and I will have a clearer picture where we stand as both a club and a fan with regards to this season’s league campaign.

Jason McKeown note: myself and fellow Width of a Post writers Gareth Walker and Mark Scully are attending this game and stopping the night in Devon, so the match report will appear later than usual.



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