Bradford City vs Shrewsbury Town preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 28 September, 2013
By Gareth Walker
Bradford City welcome Shrewsbury Town to Valley Parade this weekend for our final game of September. Coming off the back of achieving a first away win of the season at Gillingham last weekend, we have to be looking to continue with the positive manner of our play and keep our excellent home form going.
Much had been made previously about the intensity with which we approach our home games and whether or not this style was transferable to matches on the road. At Valley Parade in particular, the way that we have taken the game to the opposition has encouraged the crowd to get right behind the team. This has resulted in a cauldron-like atmosphere, where every call that a referee makes against us is howled at from the stands and every piece of positive play from someone in claret and amber is roared on with approval.
Together we have succeeded in creating a very intimidating place for League One teams to visit – and long may this continue.
It would of course be impossible to adopt such a strategy if we didn’t have the players on the pitch to implement the style and provide the catalyst from which it all sparks. The confidence with which the team are playing with at the moment is a joy to behold, particularly having seen so many nervous displays from City teams in front of our supporters in recent times. It is fantastic that, for the first time in years, we are seeing players perform at the top of their game on our home patch, and those of us in the stands are pulling together with them as we steamroller many of our visitors.
It is the form of our starting XI that has reportedly seen a couple of perspective loan acquisitions fall through over the last couple of weeks. Our targets and their managers are reluctant to let them come to City just to make up the numbers and provide us with an option from the bench. The positive side of this is obviously that the players in possession of the starting berths are all playing really well, but there is a worry too.
Last season, Phil Parkinson only delved into the loan market in order to cover injuries that were picked up throughout our hectic schedule. Considering that we have already exited two cup competitions, it is highly unlikely that our fixture list will be as packed. Our squad is also roughly of the same size as it was 12 months ago and we have yet to pick up any major injury concerns (touch wood!).
We already know that Parkinson likes to work with a small squad in order to keep the camp harmonious, and therefore the fact that he is even looking into bringing in some extra bodies would indicate that he is concerned about the strength of the squad currently at his disposal.
Indeed, most supporters, when asked to pick their first choice team, would probably name roughly the same 11 players as the manager, give or take a slight discrepancy as to who should partner Andrew Davies at centre back. The easy explanation for this is that those 11 players have been playing well; but conversely the other members of the squad are currently considered to be back up players for a reason – none of them have impressed enough on their brief showings so far to warrant calls for their regular inclusion. Therein lies the problem. If the back-up players aren’t good enough at the moment, and nobody wants to join the club, then we have to hope that one of the following three courses of action are followed.
Firstly, and most desirably, the current 11 starters keep up their high standards and avoid injury. Secondly, if our current back-up players are called upon, their standard of performance improves. Thirdly, that when we do suffer injuries or a dip in form, Parkinson’s transfer targets will be more willing to join the club.
One such target who is reported to have been attracted elsewhere by the greater prospect of first team football is Tom Eaves, who joined Rotherham. The Bolton striker was highly impressive during loan spells at Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury last season, and at 6’6 would have been the perfect man to have in the building for when James Hanson is unavailable or needs a rest.
It is hardly surprising that The Shrews were also in the running for Eaves’ signature – he scored six goals in 10 games during his short stay with them last season. Goals have been at a premium for the Shropshire outfit so far this term, as they have scored only seven times in their eight games. Their defeat at home to Wolves last weekend was characterised by a glaring open goal miss from on loan Middlesbrough striker Curtis Main.
The aim for this Saturday has to be to get more of the same from City: get an early goal, and ensure our opponents struggle to respond.
After the Shrewsbury game we face a trip to Walsall followed by the home game against Tranmere, which has been moved to the Sunday. Mid October then brings with it a run of tricky fixtures, including visits to Crawley and Preston and a home game against promotion favourites Wolves. It is these games that will really test the form and durability of the squad. It will be interesting to see how we hold up and if the steamroller is still going strong, or if we have to make changes as November approaches.
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