Bradford City vs Carlisle United preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 10 August, 2013
By Damien Wilkinson
The visit to Valley Parade by Carlisle United represents the inaugural home fixture of Bradford City’s long awaited return to League One.
With apparently in excess of 13,000 season tickets and Flexi-cards sold, a substantial crowd is anticipated and it will be interesting to see if the excellent away support witnessed in the opening couple of fixtures can be translated into a vibrant atmosphere at Valley Parade, and provide the team with the added impetus to get that all important first win of the season.
As the post-League Cup Final part of last season clearly demonstrated, the City faithful have a crucial role to play in getting behind the team, and without commenting on either side of the matter, it would be nice to draw a line over the recent events of Lenny-gate in particular, and return to some kind of unity within the club.
Having made a number of changes for the League Cup fixture at Huddersfield during the week, to allow so-called fringe players match time, it is expected that Phil Parkinson will revert to what at this stage might be regarded as his strongest eleven. That would seemingly indicate returns to the squad for Gary Jones and Andrew Davies, plus the likes of Nahki Wells, James Hanson and James Meredith restored to the starting line-up after cameo appearances earlier in the week.
It would be reasonable to expect Parkinson to revert to the side which acquitted itself well in the opening day league fixture at Bristol City, although goal-scorer/near-post talisman Rory McArdle remains a doubt, after picking up an ankle knock in that fixture. Mark Yeates and Garry Thompson are likely to start on either wing again, although whether Parkinson is tempted to throw Kyel Reid into the mix with home advantage remains to be seen.
Greg Abbott, as we all know, will be relishing a return to his old stomping ground and his team will certainly be no push-overs. Abbott, as the third longest serving manager in the whole of the Football league, has performed extremely well to keep Carlisle in League One, with added sprinklings of JPT success. And despite some rumblings of discontent during last season, appears to have some stability in his role.
The match will represent a useful benchmark for City, and expectations of play offs/promotion may well receive a reality check in what remains an extremely competitive division. After only two matches into the season, it is clearly premature to make any meaningful conclusions on a final outcome or indeed the calibre of any new signings, and it is hoped that fans avoid any knee-jerk reactions and allow a team which had so much success last season some breathing space to acclimatise and adapt to a new league.
Last season definitely epitomised the “marathon not a sprint” nature of the lower leagues, which should absolutely not be forgotten by anyone.
The Cumbrians will no doubt be buoyed by Wednesday night’s League Cup success against Blackburn, triumphing on penalties after an extra-time 3-3 draw, albeit with a relatively youthful and makeshift side, resulting in a home tie against Championship outfit Leicester City in round two. Whilst some will point to apparent tired legs and so forth, it is difficult to find an occasion where this set of circumstances has actually benefitted a City side in the subsequent match – indeed the converse usually seems to transpire, and perhaps of even less relevance at this early time in the season.
Furthermore, whilst Carlisle’s opening day 5-1 home reverse to Leyton Orient may not count for a great deal, especially as the home team played with 10 men for an hour. City may be well disposed to try and unsettle Abbott’s team from the outset, and capitalise on any frailties, especially against a defence that has conceded 8 goals in its opening two matches.
Much emphasis will be placed by the visitors on powerful former Liverpool striker David Amoo, recruited during the close season, who has already notched two goals in his first two appearances, particularly as fellow striker Lee Miller serves the remainder of his three match ban after his opening day red card. Abbott has, also, very recently brought in Charlton defender Kevin Feely on a month’s loan, who may be jettisoned in to help shore up the leaky defence.
Much will be made in the run up to Saturday’s fixture of City striker Nahki Wells, who began his English league journey at Carlisle, released after only a handful of appearances, and eventually being signed by the Bantams in the summer of 2011. With ongoing rumours of increasingly significant transfer bids gathering momentum after Wells’ 2012/13 form, coupled with his two goals in two games start to this campaign, the closure of the transfer window cannot come soon enough for City fans, and it will be interesting to see whether his goal scoring run, which also extends some way back into last season with 10 goals in his last 11 matches, can be maintained.
Wells will be no doubt be especially keen to remind Abbott of his folly in letting him go, but Carlisle’s loss is currently City’s gain. As the Bantams’ success this season may well mirror that of Wells, the opening matches could turn out to be quite significant in that regard, and it is to be hoped that Wells can see a season of continued development in the claret and amber.
Whilst it would be great to see a convincing home win, the season will not be defined by the result on Saturday. I hope we see a solid team performance, good atmosphere and that the positive start seen so far continues.