Bradford City vs Burton Albion preview
@Valley Parade on Thursday 2 May, 2013
By Luke Lockwood
So here we go. At least two more games in what has been a marathon of a season, but the two more games that we all hoped for. If most City fans are honest, 10 games or so ago, we had all given up on the hope of these additional games.
However, much like the end of last season – although in very different circumstances – the team rallied and lifted themselves; so much so that we went into the last day of the season unconcerned by any scores elsewhere and just happy to enjoy the day. It was nice to have that weekend of being relaxed about all things claret and amber, but now it all starts again and I for one am relishing every last nail-biting, leg-shaking moment of it.
It’s almost two decades since City were last in the play offs and, for me, it’s my first real experience of it. I’ve heard many fans talk about the second leg and final of that season as their favourite memories as a Bradford City fan – better than Arsenal and Aston Villa – it makes me green with envy. Even worse than how my dad feels the need to tell me (immediately after another penalty shoot out defeat) that he’s ‘seen England win a World Cup’ is the empty feeling of not knowing what it’s like to see City win at Wembley.
Still there is a long way to go before I should even start thinking about that. A two-legged semi final to navigate our way through. And, if 20 years ago is anything to go by, we won’t make it easy – but then City never do!
Even last week, when we just had to turn up and the score was irrelevant we still managed to throw a spanner in the works and lose our finest player for the first leg.
Was Andrew Davies a silly boy? Or was Parkinson at fault for not taking him off following the initial booking? Probably both. Parkinson has made his defence, explaining how he wanted to test Davies’ fitness over 90 minutes and give Rory McArdle a full break after his marathon of a season.
Understandable – and yes Davies should be wise enough and experienced enough to keep himself out of trouble for 45 minutes – but even so, no gambles should be taken over your prized asset. Fortunately, having avoided Northampton, Akinfenwa and their direct style, the absence of Davies may not be as critical as it may have been.
With the exception of the suspended Number 5 and a late sweat over Kyel Reid’s fitness, Parkinson has a full compliment to select from. Following reports from the final game at Cheltenham it would appear that – despite a satisfactory performance – none of the replacements will have put excessive pressure on those players that guided City into seventh place over the final few games
I would be very surprised if the team sheet did not read as simple as Jon McLaughlin, Stephen Darby, Michael Nelson, McArdle, James Meredith, Garry Thompson, Ricky Ravenhill, Gary Jones, Reid, Nahki Wells and James Hanson. It says a lot that these players have started to select themselves, despite a bench including Matt Duke, Carl McHugh, Nathan Doyle, Zavon Hines, Will Atkinson and Alan Connell – all of whom have been prominent figures at some stage of the season and four of which were in the starting 11 at Wembley.
So what of City’s opponents over in the next two games? Parkinson should know them well having faced them on three occasions this season and, most recently, just under a fortnight ago. Of course during that match Ricky Ravenhill’s good friend, Lee Bell, was sent off and misses both legs.
In City’s favour is Albion’s form away from home. The only team from the top half to have picked up less wins on the road than the Brewers is Northampton. Burton were very recently humiliated 7-1 by Port Vale. Bradford have, of course, already beaten them twice at Valley Parade.
The stats would indicate that it is vital City make the most of their home advantage and take a lead into the return fixture – no side has a better home record than Burton. After a weekend to relax the pressure is well and truly back.