Bradford City vs Burton Albion preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 20 April, 2013
By Jason McKeown
I harboured two personal ambitions going into this season. The first was to attend every single Bradford City home match, league and cup; the second to ensure that Width of a Post published a match report of every single match.
Attending every home game in a campaign is a feat I’ve not previously achieved in my 15 previous seasons supporting the Bantams. There has always been cause to miss one or two games per campaign – in recent years due to visiting my in-laws in America. Tomorrow’s game with Burton might prove to be the occasion I seal that ambition – or perhaps there will be one extra home game to attend, in the play offs.
The way that this season has gone, you’d certainly back it. That second ambition of this site publishing a match report of every game has been more than tested by the huge number of extra games to cover. Tomorrow will be City’s 60th match of the campaign – add in pre-season friendlies and the season’s tally stands at 66, with at least one more to go at Cheltenham. I will be at Waddon Road next week, writing match report number 67 of the season. Again, the play offs might mean we’ve not got our 100% match report record just yet; but if City’s season goes to 70, so to will Width of a Post.
At the risk of Width of a Post patting itself on the back too much, doing the 67 (or 70) has not been an easy feat. Back in the days of jointly operating boyfrombrazil.co.uk with Michael Wood, I don’t believe we ever managed to do the full set. I must admit there have been a couple of Tuesday night away games attended this season where my number reason for doing so was to ensure the site would have a match report.
But it goes well beyond me, and I am indebted to my excellent Width of a Post writing team for their help covering every single game. In particular, I’m grateful for southern-based City writers David Lawrence, Alex Scott and Mark Danylczuk providing coverage of some of the more far-flung away games. I thought that we were going to miss out on a Torquay match report – it genuinely kept me awake at night worrying – so a special thanks to Chris Wilkinson for nervously making his Width of a Post debut, returning from Devon with a report. Phew.
It’s a good job that this season has been so utterly memorable, because I get the feeling it will represent something of a peak moment in my level of dedication to the club. Last December, as part of a City following of just 140 at Port Vale in the JPT, I wrote about how my membership of the Tuesday Night Club was coming to an end. Me and my wife are, at the end of May, expecting our first child. As my boss so eloquently put it, I am about to be hit in the face with a shovel. So much to gain by becoming a father, but plenty of sacrifices to be made.
A motorway slog to Oxford; Hartlepool, Port Vale and Crewe on a Tuesday; Bristol Rovers a month before Christmas; Plymouth Argyle with an overnight stay in a Travelodge…such occasions are coming to an end, or, at best, significantly reducing in number.
Managing this site may become a challenge too, though Width of a Post certainly won’t be going anywhere. I will still be attending home games and a handful of away matches, and my ever-expanding writing team will continue to help provide regular reports. But at some stage next season, the run of consecutive Width of a Post match reports that goes back to January 2012 (90 straight match reports!) will likely come to an end.
If we are to be celebrating promotion at Wembley stadium on May 18 (Baby McKeown please, please do not come along early), it will in some ways be the perfect way to end this era. Our descent to League Two coincided with me reaching a point in life where I could prioritise Bradford City over just about everything else. And my attendance record has reflected this.
Since the Stuart McCall reign began with a home game against Macclesfield Town in August 2007 and up to the final whistle at Cheltenham next week, I will have seen 237 out of City’s 318 league and cup games (74% of them). That’s not a boast (for one thing I’m sure plenty of others can beat that) just an acknowledgement that there has been a six-year stage in my life that enabled me to become very fanatical. Perhaps, in 10 or 20 years from now, I will be able to become that committed again, but this is probably it.
I’ve become an addict, and it’s not going to be easy to cut down.
What a season we have had. And for it all to go to the wire and for there to be an opportunity to prolong it with a two-legged play off semi final and possible second date to Wembley is simply fantastic. We are three points shy of achieving our best league points tally in a season since 1998/99. We have witnessed some incredible highs, and only a handful of lows. A decade plus of season-upon-season misery has tested faith, but not this time.
A win tomorrow against Burton, and a top seven finish might be ours. Exeter welcome Cheltenham to St. James Park – not an easy game, and they have not won since thrashing us 4-1 a month ago. Chesterfield go to Fleetwood realistically not able to drop a point if they are to overtake us. Southend have come back into contention and have an easier-looking run-in than the rest, but have surely left it too late. Three points for the Bantams tomorrow will render whatever Chesterfield and Southend achieve meaningless.
The task is straightforward, even if the opposition are not. Burton dropped out of the automatic promotion places because of Rotherham’s midweek Valley Parade triumph pushing them ahead on goal difference, and none of City’s seven previous League Two meetings with the Brewers ended in a Bantams victory. We did defeat them in the League Cup earlier in the season, but even that was after extra time.
Both sides have so much to play for, this is no home banker.
Which makes it a bad time to go without the services of Andrew Davies, who has been ruled out tomorrow after hobbling off 24 minutes into the Rotherham defeat. The outstanding form shown by Davies has been a key reason for the late play off surge, and he was badly missed at Chesterfield last Saturday in particular. Michael Nelson has done nothing wrong deputising, but does lack the same level of presence as Davies. It’s an afternoon for winning over the sceptics he has built.
It would also be a bad time to be without the services of James Meredith, whose Tuesday evening was ended early because of injury. The Australian left back is said to have a chance of playing tomorrow, and it’s to be hoped he is fit enough to provide the balance in the team that so notably disappeared with his enforced departure. Carl McHugh can do a job at left back, but Kyel Reid is not quite the same player.
The rest of the defence at least picks itself, with Rory McArdle recovering from his mini-wobble of form and Stephen Darby and Jon McLaughlin quietly performing well. In midfield expect the same four, with Ricky Ravenhill and Gary Jones performing like warriors of late and Garry Thompson impressing with his work rate. James Hanson and Nahki Wells are up front.