Phil Parkinson’s building blocks remain in place for his new-look team

Image by Ritchie Jervis

Image by Ritchie Jervis

Crawley Town vs Bradford City preview

@Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday 19 August, 2014

By James Storrie

Bradford City travel to hosts Crawley Town on Tuesday night and will be looking to improve on their poor record at the Broadfield Stadium.

After a summer of mass change and rebuilding, it has been a welcome relief to see the Bantams take positive strides forward, a week into the new campaign. This summer was quite an unusual one for both the club and the fans, one that we have not really seen since Phil Parkinson took over the reins from Peter Jackson/Colin Cooper. That ill-fated summer of 2011, where Jackson spent his time chasing unrealistic targets, shared small similarities with what Parkinson has gone through recently in terms of having a threadbare squad as the season kicked off. Yet the differences between the two summer proved vast from kick off, as the class of 2014 have put in three strong performances in a week.

Another impressive quality to go with Parkinson’s overall management of the club is just how little the fans learn of the incomings to the football club. The papers and message boards have scarcely contained a rumour concerning the football club all summer, and it is due to this quiet approach that the club have secured the likes of Billy Clarke, Gary Liddle and Alan Sheehan. The recruitment drive has not gone altogether swimmingly, however, and it is obvious that Parkinson hasn’t landed his first choice targets in certain areas and has had to settle for other names further down his list.

This is one of the frustrating scenarios that all managers face up and down the country and respective leagues, and it has been impressive how Parkinson has started building the foundations of a strong side even with the well-publicised budgetary constraints that shackled some of his recruitment plans.

There are certain qualities that come from the manager that he has installed in all three of his sides that he has created whilst at the club. These, without dismissing the other qualities that he has brought to the party, are a strong ethos in respect of hard work, discipline and organisation. This may sound like the obvious, but it’s the heartbeat and lifeblood of every good team. How many times do you see a Phil Parkinson side lose their cool? Run off their shape? Or become unprofessional when losing and concede heavily when chasing a game?

This stems from good coaching from Parkinson and his wider team, and it’s these qualities that have been evident in the opening three games. There are obvious weaknesses that are a concern, and there is clear room for improvement. However, there are a lot of positive aspects to take forward into the season also. A lot of the summer was spent highlighting the new diamond formation the club would start the season with, and it has enjoyed mixed results so far.

One of the early problems with the diamond has proven to be the lack of protection it offers to the full backs and, if the opposition quickly switches play, then it can lead to Stephen Darby and Sheehan/Meredith being exposed to a two on one from the opposition full back and winger. This was evidenced particularly for Coventry’s second equaliser last week. One of the various more positive aspects has been the emergence of Jason Kennedy and Mark Yeates, who have both flourished so far with the greater flexibility and potential to roam that the system offers the midfielders.

The solidarity that Parkinson instialls in his team will be crucial in the upcoming months. It is clear that despite the nice football and interchanging of positions, City remain unlikely to be free-scoring this season. On the other hand, with two clean sheets and only one goal from open play conceded, it is hoped that the impressive defence we possess will help us to edge close encounters in what is set to be a very even and closely-contested division.

The need to stay strong on a cold Tuesday night is something Parkinson spoke about last week before Morecambe and, with Crawley unbeaten and yet to concede a goal, the Bantams resolve will be tested to the hilt.

Crawley have had a summer much like the Bantams with a sea of outgoings and incomings. They have made some notable signings. Two of which will be particularly of interest to City fans, one being experienced former trialist Brian Jensen and loanee Ryan Dickson. Izale McLeod is another to have joined and is a forward who always scores goals at this level.

It is likely that the Bantams will shuffle the proverbial pack for the game after three matches in a week coming so soon into the season. It is hard to foresee many changes in defence, bar the returning  Sheehan, however. In midfield the likes of Matty Dolan, Filipe Morais and Mo Shariff could all win starting spots in an area Steve Parkin described as ‘leggy’ after the weekends exhaustions in the draw with Walsall. It is likely that James Hanson will be partnered by eighteen year old Mason Bennett in attack again as the Derby youngster looks to get up to speed; with the returning Aaron McLean waiting in the wings to continue in his quest for match fitness.

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