Bradford City vs Peterborough United preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 23 August, 2014
By Andrew Baxter
James Hanson’s goal on Tuesday night at Crawley was a fine example of how far he has developed as a footballer in the last couple of years. A neat piece of footwork, some very good close control and a powerful, yet precise, finish, would have been a great goal for any winger, never mind City’s 6ft 4in targetman.
Would Hanson have showed that level of composure and technique three years ago? I doubt it. It just highlights the work Hanson has done to improve his technique, and quash those accusations that he is a “one-dimensional” player. Hanson’s technique opens up a number of attacking options for City. They can feed it to his feet, knowing he’ll hold it up, and give the ball to one of City’s creative players, such as Mark Yeates or Billy Knott. Hanson can control balls fired in towards his chest, bringing them down, and holding the play up once more. The McArdle to Hanson long diagonal ball is predictable, but Hanson’s aerial ability means that he can win the header, nodding it back to a City midfielder or flicking it on for someone like Mason Bennett to run onto.
It may be a cliché, but the phrase “good feet for a big man” rings true for Hanson. He has adapted to both life in League One, and the new formation, with ease, and scoring three goals in his first three league games is an example of how the team have utilised Hanson as an integral part of the new system.
The chant “He used to work at the Co-Op” is an indication of the change Hanson has made since arriving at the club back in 2009, and this could be the season he goes from being a club icon, to a club legend. Hanson has scored 66 goals in his City career so far, just two behind Joe Cooke, and is now 20 behind Dean Windass. Hanson averages just over one goal every three games, and with a contract that has nearly three years to run, there is every reason to suggest that Hanson will surpass Windass’ mark of 86 City goals, should he stay fit. Even by the end of the season, he could be fourth on City’s all-time leading scorers list, something which would mark him as a legend in my books.
The rest of the team, like Hanson, have enjoyed a consistent, and solid start to the season, with two clean sheets in four games a sign of this consistency, and City are yet to concede a goal from open play.
Barring any last-minute injuries, Jordan Pickford will start in net, with a back four of Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Andrew Davies and Alan Sheehan in front of him. Gary Liddle will continue his holding role in midfield, with Jason Kennedy and the impressive Billy Knott just in front of him. Mark Yeates should play just behind the two strikers, with Mason Bennett the most likely to partner Hanson. Saturday will probably come too soon for Billy Clarke, who is recovering from a hamstring injury.
As for City’s opponents, and mixed start to the season has seen two league wins coupled with a League Cup defeat at Portsmouth, and a defeat at home to Sheffield United last Tuesday.
Their transfer activity during the summer was much more high-profile than the Bantams, with last season’s top scorer Britt Assombalonga moving to Nottingham Forest, for a tidy £5.5 million. Defeat in the play offs last year was regarded as a failure by some, but manager Darren Ferguson has the backing of chairman Darragh MacAnthony, and Ferguson has recently signed a new three-year deal.
Peterborough will be without regular centre-backs Gabriel Zakuani and Jack Baldwin, who are both injured, but the signing of Christian Burgess will provide some cover.
Peterborough will line up in a 4-4-2 formation, with former City trialist Ben Alnwick in net. In front of him will be the back four of Michael Smith, Shaun Brisley, Christian Burgess and Kgosi Ntlhe (Ntlhe scored a fantastic goal when the two sides met at London Road last December). In midfield, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing will start on the right hand side, with captain Jack Payne and Jermaine Anderson in the middle. Jon Taylor will start on the left, and Darren Ferguson has a dilemma upfront. Kyle Vassell will start, with three goals so far, but the out-of-form Conor Washington and Tyrone Barnett will compete for the other starting berth.
City have had a great start to the season, but this week will be a test of how good this side is, starting with the visit of Peterborough to Valley Parade.