The long slog continues in Coventry

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Coventry City vs Bradford City preview

@The Ricoh Arena on Tuesday 10 March, 2015

By Jason McKeown

Bradford City go to Coventry this evening with something of a whirlwind swirling around them.

Still in the FA Cup, last night’s semi final draw offers the tantalising prospect of a Wembley date with Arsenal, and the importance of next Monday’s replay at Reading has been further sharpened. Here, as Jim Bowen might say, is what you could win. Glamour, excitement and financial security, all neatly wrapped into one package that could be ours in the middle of April.

Just beat Reading. Not a given, but not impossible.

And before that are two league games that feel inconvenient in their timing, especially Saturday’s trip to Meadow Lane to face Notts County, 48 hours before the cup replay in Berkshire. Inconvenient because neglecting these games could come at a heavy price. Whilst City were going through the Reading stalemate, the rest of League One played and the upshot is that the play offs are now slightly further away but still within grasp. Two bad league results prior to the Reading game would damage that objective; and if this was coupled with the cup replay bringing an end to the great adventure, a remarkable season would lose some of its glean.

So somehow, the two-front assault has to continue. And if City can take four points from trips to Coventry tonight and Notts County on Saturday, they will remain firmly in the hunt for another trip to Wembley, and can go into Monday with confidence and momentum. It all means that every team selection, every kick of the ball and every goal for and against matters greatly. This is serious business.

The quest is made more difficult by the shock departure of Jordan Pickford back to Sunderland, after Gus Poyet ruled he didn’t want to risk not being allowed to recall his young shot stopper during the final weeks of their season. It seems a short-sighted move and one hopes, but does not expect, Pickford to receive some game time at the Stadium of Light before the campaign is over. Otherwise, how is recalling him good for his development?

The story of Bradford City’s 2014/15 season has not yet reached its conclusion, but Pickford has been a key character in shaping the narrative. He made a rocky start but quickly found his composure and confidence, producing many inspirational performances along the way. Certainly the controversy over allowing Jon McLaughlin to leave during the summer remains a distant memory. Pickford has demonstrated his vast potential and I back him to make it as a Premier League keeper one day. Hopefully his step away from the limelight at Valley Parade does not prove a step back in his career.

With Pickford gone, Ben Williams will keep goal for the rest of the campaign. He is ear-marked to be number one next season anyway; and though Phil Parkinson has suggested he will bring in another keeper on loan it would make little sense to play them ahead of Williams. The experienced stopper has played through City’s FA Cup adventure, but is arguably yet to fully demonstrate his worth. He will get that opportunity between now and May.

Who else plays tonight will depend on Parkinson’s league/cup priority, though it would be sensible to assume a stronger team will be deployed in this fixture compared to Saturday. Filipe Morais may be held back – he looked rusty on Saturday and was arguably rushed back too soon – whilst James Hanson and Jon Stead have missed games of late that means they are not fully up to speed. Andrew Davies’ injury record demands that thought is paid towards protecting him for the Madejski Stadium.

Coventry are experiencing a wretched season, and their move back to the Ricoh Arena has not proven the happy reunion many assumed. Tony Mowbray has recently being installed as manager but seems a strange fit. His appearance on The Football League Show, last Saturday, did not suggest he is too enthralled by the way his managerial star has fallen. Coventry hang nervously above the drop zone and will hope that Mowbray can inspire an upturn similar to that Tim Sherwood has achieved at Aston Villa. Saturday’s 3-2 home defeat to Port Vale was not a good start.

They’d certainly swap their unhappy world for ours. And though the problems of fixture congestion and goalkeepers are causing some headaches, it’s hardly a bad position to be in.

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