Port Vale vs Bradford City and Bradford City vs MK Dons preview
@Vale Park on Saturday 7 and @Valley Parade on Monday 9 February, 2015
By Andrew Baxter
Bradford City visit Port Vale, and then host MK Dons, in a crucial weekend for their hopes of pushing for a play off position.
With the FA Cup fifth round tie at home to Sunderland just around the corner, these back-to-back games offer the Bantams the chance to get to the head of the pack in the hunt for a top six place. With just four points separating fifth and fifteenth place in the table, every point won and lost is going to prove pivotal at this stage of the season.
The task of playing two games in 48 hours will also be a test of Phil Parkinson’s ability to manage and rotate his squad. City are about to enter a fixture pile up of 14 games in 49 days, and the whole squad, including the likes of new signing Gary McKenzie, will play their part during this period.
Centre back McKenzie signed on Deadline Day, on loan from Blackpool, to provide some experienced cover for Andrew Davies and Rory McArdle. The 29-year-old spent three years at MK Dons, and during that time he was selected for two Scotland squads. McKenzie may make an appearance at some point over these two games, especially with that big game at home to Sunderland on the horizon.
Another player who may make an appearance is Jason Kennedy. It looked at one point as if Kennedy was on his way out of the club, but he produced some decent performances earlier on in the season. However, the scintillating form of Billy Knott and Gary Liddle has seen his opportunities limited. With two games in three days, fatigue from others could mean that Kennedy is given a chance to impress. Other fringe players, such as Christopher Routis and Francois Zoko, may also be given an extended run out, either during City’s visit to Port Vale, or the match at home to MK Dons.
City’s opposition on Saturday, Port Vale, currently sit in fifteenth place, yet will overtake the Bantams with a win. The Valiants are just two points behind City, and have yet to really hit a good run of form, after having a few good spells, broken up by poor performances.
Target man Tom Pope will be a handful for the City defence, having just come back from a knee injury, and pacy winger Mark Marshall will be a test of Stephen Darby’s ability.
The game at Vale Park is followed up quickly by the televised home clash against MK Dons on Monday night. The Dons haven’t lost in the league in 2015, and come into the game at Valley Parade as a team on a very good run of form – just one defeat in their last 18 league games. This run has seen them climb to near the top of the League One table, and it would take a brave man to bet against them finally gaining promotion this season. On Saturday, the MK Dons face a top of the table clash with Bristol City.
The Dons sold wonderkid Dele Alli to Spurs this week for £5 million, but the 18-year-old will remain on loan at Stadium:MK until the end of the season. Alli has been a revelation, scoring 20 times and making 74 appearances for MK Dons. At just 18 years old, his potential is huge, and it is no wonder that Spurs spent so much money on him. City will need to ensure that Alli has a quiet game on Monday, if they are to get something from the game.
MK Dons also have pacy Manchester City loanee Devante Cole – who impressed against the Bantams whilst on loan at Barnsley, last October – Will Grigg and the experienced Dean Bowditch, all of whom can cause trouble if given the time and space to create a chance.
Both games could prove tough for the Bantams; but six points from them will see them sit in a prime position for a play off charge, with the distraction of the Sunderland FA Cup game just around the corner.