Where we have come from as Bradford City welcome Crewe

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Bradford City vs Crewe Alexandra preview

@Valley Parade on Saturday 8 February, 2014

By Andrew Baxter

7 May, 2011. A Bradford City side, including the likes of Lewis Hunt, and Jon Worthington, were outclassed and humiliated 5-1 by Crewe Alexandra, in one of the most lacklustre City performances in recent memory. From the starting eleven that day, only James Hanson and Jon McLaughlin now remain at the club, following Luke Oliver’s departure last week.

Much has been made of this current run of form, but it is worth noting that the defeat at Wolves last Saturday was just the second time this season that City have lost a league game by two goals or more, the other occasion coming away at Notts County. This statistic suggests that City are not being played off the park every single game, and merely are just struggling to take their chances in tight games.

Whilst we have only won one game in the last 19 (a run that has led to criticism from some fans) performances such as the second half against Sheffield United suggests that a win is not too far away. It is not as if City have been woeful in every single game, playing as poorly as they did in the aforementioned Crewe home game just over two and a half years ago. In addition, despite our lack of victories recently, the Bantams still lie in a respectable 13th in the League One table, with plenty of positives, most notably the form of Adam Reach.

Phil Parkinson’s increased use of the loan market allows him to secure some exciting prospects, like Reach, without the gamble of offering an extended contract. Reach’s impressive start suggests he has the potential to prove to be a match-winner for City, and Kyle Bennett looked promising before his (unfortunate) red card against Preston. Both players will be in contention on Saturday. Matty Dolan, nearly signed on “Deadline Day”, is expected to join the club today on an emergency loan deal, with a view to a permanent move, and could go straight into the XI tomorrow.

It is also worth mentioning that the impact of Andrew Davies’ return from injury is almost as big as signing a new defender. If you compare the first half defensive performance against Sheffield United and the defensive performance at home to Preston, the difference is huge. It is no coincidence that City have conceded just seven goals in the 11 games that Davies has started in this season.

The performance of Carl McHugh against Wolves may give Parkinson a defensive dilemma. McHugh’s encouraging display means it would be harsh to drop him, but at the same time, Davies will be fit and ready to play.

The starting eleven, therefore, could see a couple of changes made to that which started the last home game against Preston. McLaughlin will continue in net, with Stephen Darby and Matthew Bates occupying the full-back slots. In the centre of defence, Andrew Davies will return, and Parkinson must choose one of Carl McHugh and Rory McArdle to partner him.

In midfield, the suspension of Bennett has expired, so he may regain his place on the right flank, with Reach starting on left midfield. With Nathan Doyle suspended, it will be between Chris Atkinson or Matty Dolan to start alongside Gary Jones in central midfield. Up front, James Hanson and Aaron McLean will resume their partnership, should Hanson recover from the hamstring injury that saw him sit out last Saturday’s loss at Wolves.

As for City’s opponents, despite their league position of 19th, they have won four out of their last seven games, including an impressive 3-0 win over Sheffield United last weekend, in which Arsenal loanee Chuks Aneke scored twice. Aneke is probably Crewe’s biggest threat and, at 6ft 3in, will pose a physical presence that Davies will have to deal with. Aneke is also in good form, having scored 5 goals in his last 7 appearances.

Aneke’s versatility and physical presence means that he can play upfront when Crewe are in search of a goal, but drop back to central midfield when they are winning, and holding onto a lead, allowing manager Steve Davis to switch between 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 according to the circumstances. Crewe’s away form, however, is not so good, having won just two out of the 14 games on the road so far this season, losing 10 of those. A record that will greatly encourage City.

Whilst this is not a “do-or-die” game for the Bantams, it is a great opportunity to break out of this dismal run of form. With Crewe’s poor away record, and the desire for players such as Kyle Bennett and Adam Reach to make an impact, tomorrow represents a fantastic opportunity to put this poor run of form to bed.

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