MK Dons vs Bradford City preview
@Stadium MK on Saturday 23 November, 2013
By Mahesh Johal
After the exhaustion of last Sunday’s humdinger against Coventry, Bradford City return to league action with a trip to Wimble…I mean Milton Keynes. Another substantial away following will travel to Stadium MK, with many fans still recovering from the 3-3 draw against the Sky Blues.
In a game-of-the-season candidate, Valley Parade (and Sky Sports viewers) saw the ‘Good, the Bad and the Nahki’ of Bradford City. The match epitomised everything we love about this sport. It was a rollercoaster battle that ebbed and flowed. Like a good drama, the audience were passionately involved. Heroes became villains and heroes further enhanced their reputations as heroes.
Don’t get me wrong, there were aspects of the game which were painful to watch and they will be discussed, but I for one can’t help but be positive. I know we’re winless in seven but, lets be honest, these last 18 months have been so much fun for us fans.
Take a minute and compare ourselves to our Coventry counterparts. They are in limbo. Some fans have boycotted the club, whilst others have to travel 34 miles to watch their ‘home games’. With this in mind, its kind of ironic that we play Milton Keyes a week after Coventry. Only ten years ago, Milton Keynes’ forefathers, Wimbledon, found themselves in a similar position. Fast forward (and not reviving the arguments about the club’s roots) Milton Keynes is an established club, albeit one many prefer to give a wide berth to.
I would at this point like to confirm my allegiance to AFC Wimbledon, but…taking bias, emotion and history away from it all, Milton Keynes could be classed as a blue print on how to run a club. They have a great stadium, an attractive brand of football, a successful youth set up, a thriving community scheme and imaginative ticket initiatives (sounds a bit like Bradford City, really).
Milton Keynes are well equipped for this league. They have constantly been around the play off places during their tenure in League One, and Saturday’s game will be another big test for City. The Dons are packed full of talented players; but eyes will no doubt be on striker Patrick Bamford.
With 12 goals this season, the Chelsea loanee will offer another examination for the heart of the City defence. An area of so much strength, last Sunday’s Coventry forward line was the most difficult proposition it will face this season. The partnership of Rory McArdle and Matthew Bates appeared to struggle immensely though, with the ever reliable McArdle looking uncharacteristically out of sorts.
McArdle has again been superb this season and a poor eight minutes shouldn’t deter from his status as City’s first choice centre half. But, with six goals conceded in two games, we may see a change to the back four. Matt Taylor appears to be the favourite if changes are made. Luke Oliver could be in the offing for a recall, whilst Carl McHugh will also hope this is the opportunity he has been waiting for. Who they would replace is unknown; however Phil Parkinson’s public backing of McArdle hints that the Northern Ireland international may keep his place.
The fact that Parkinson has stuck with the pair for the last month suggest that it is his favoured partnership. But, after last week’s first half display, the axe may be wielded. Either way, Stephen Darby and James Meredith will continue at full backs; with Meredith looking something back to his best. Jon McLaughlin should start in goal, regardless of the mistake that cost us the first goal.
Whilst question raise over the centre halves, none should be asked about the central midfield. For all the discussion, its my opinion that Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle’s performances last week were as robust and determined as I have seen from the pair. I thought they ran themselves into the ground, in particular Jones. For all the criticism about a lack of goals, mobility and age, this is our best central option.
One would expect Kyel Reid to continue on the left, whilst it’s a toss up between Garry Thompson, Rafa De Vita and Mark Yeates to feature on the opposite flank. The latter performed well after his arrival off the bench against Coventry, but the continuous rotation between the players implies that we still don’t have a full-time holder of the jersey.
Finally, the front two of Wells and James Hanson will continue their flourishing partnership, with new signing Lewis Clarkson likely to spend time on the sidelines for now. Wells rightly took the plaudits after last week’s hat trick. It wasn’t just his goals that were impressive; his all-round performance was fantastic and he was involved with everything positive.
As expected, Wells has taken a couple of games to find his feet since his injury. He was never going to be scoring straight away. But, when you have a player of his quality in your squad, you have to play him. He needed a bit of time but with it; he was back to his divine best and carried this team. James Hanson again proved his importance, having a helping hand in all three goals. He may have been the target of Stephen Pressley’s ‘dark age football ‘comment, but Hanson fully exploited the Coventry back line and bullied his opposite numbers into submission.
Football is results-based industry. Sunday proved that even when we’re not on top form, we are able to get results. All teams go through rough patches. This is ours. But, the character and desire demonstrated last week gives me further reason to be positive. Yes, it’s frustrating to lose and its easy to pick at things when results don’t go our way. But imagine being a Coventry fan, or ten years ago Wimbledon – we have a lot to be positive about!
Saturday will be a very tough game and positivity is needed if we aim to get the victory we all yearn!