Stevenage vs Bradford City preview
@Broadhall Way on Saturday 31 August, 2013
Written by Andrew Baxter (image by David Lawrence)
Cast your mind back to the last time Bradford City played Stevenage at Valley Parade. Do you remember it? If the answer was no, you won’t be the only one. It was the first home game of the 2010/11 season, and a rather dull 1-0 win, which led to boos from the City fans, and subsequently then-boss Peter Taylor criticising the City fans for booing a win.
Three years later, and with Phil Parkinson celebrating two years in charge of Tte Bantams this week, the chances of City fans booing the manager or team are unlikely, given the level of appreciation and support towards the manager and the current City crop of players.
In his two years in charge so far, Parkinson has drastically changed the fortunes of the club. Just three of the starting line-up from Saturday’s brilliant victory over Sheffield United were on the books of the club before Parkinson joined. As Parkinson has put his stamp on the team, with it he has made some inspired signings. The lack of additions this summer was not due to missing out on transfer targets, but a confirmation that Parkinson’s signings from the season before are good enough to cope in League One. This has been proved right, so far, as seven points from four games is an impressive return, especially as we have already played two of the pre-season favourites, Bristol City and Sheffield United.
For City’s opponents at the weekend, however, the situation is less promising. After a poor performance and 2-0 defeat to MK Dons, manager Graham Westley (back for his third spell in charge of the club) blasted his team for a “shocking” performance, claiming that many of the players in that dressing room would be released, with new faces coming in. His words were followed by actions, with six players released and seven players coming in. However, unlike the stability that City’s squad has, Stevenage have struggled to gel and find their rhythm due to all their additions, with just one win in four league games so far.
It is worth noting, however, that all of Stevenage’s games this season, including their gutsy performance at Everton in the League Cup, have been decided by a single goal. If such a statistic is to continue on Saturday, it could take a piece of sublime skill, or one mistake, to decide the outcome of the game.
Given his current purple patch, who would bet against Nahki Wells scoring yet again? It could be the Bermudan that provides the edge in this game, but given the strength of the City line up, there are a number of players who could change the game. Mark Yeates, as shown by his wonder goal against Carlisle, has the ability and skill to run defences ragged. James Hanson’s aerial ability could pose a threat to the Stevenage defence, although the experience of Peter Hartley will prove a tough test for Hanson. Even the likes of James Meredith and Stephen Darby pose an attacking threat, with Parkinson preferring his full-backs to overlap and cross the ball into the box.
In terms of the starting line-up, it is clear that Parkinson knows his strongest 11, and it seems only injuries would force him to change the side at the moment. Jon McLaughlin will continue in goal, with the back four of Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies and James Meredith looking impressive against Sheffield United, after a blip in performance against Port Vale.
In midfield, Garry Thompson and Mark Yeates occupy the wide midfield slots, with the formidable partnership of Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle running the show in the centre of midfield. Up front, the little and large combination of James Hanson and Nahki Wells is working wonders, and the Stevenage defence will have their work cut out to nullify the pace of Wells, and the heading ability and strength of Hanson.
As for Stevenage, they played 120 minutes away at Everton on Wednesday, and may suffer with fatigue towards the end of Saturday’s game. Westley has named an unchanged line-up for the last two games, although the loss of striker Darius Charles to injury could be a big loss for the Hertfordshire side. Oumare Tounkara may come in for Stevenage in place of Charles, and he will be quite a handful, standing 6ft 2in tall, and with a reputation as a pacy forward.
A win for City would see them reach 10 points from five games. Last season’s League One champions, Doncaster Rovers, took nine points from their first five games. Therefore, a win on Saturday would signal a very strong start to the season, and whilst the campaign is only a matter of weeks old, let’s hope this early form is a sign of things to come.
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