Bradford City vs Doncaster Rovers preview
@Valley Parade on Saturday 12 March, 2016
By Andrew Baxter
A shut out on Tuesday night meant that the Bantams have now kept 17 clean sheets in their last 26 games. This is an impressive statistic, and a big part of this is surely down to the outstanding performances of Reece Burke.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burke is playing Championship football next season. He has adapted and settled to life in a physical league quickly, and is arguably City’s Player of the Year so far this campaign. He has all the attributes to make it the top.
Burke is solid in the air, has an eye for a pass, and very rarely gets beaten for pace. His reading of the game belies his tender age, his trademark forward runs show that he does not lack in confidence and at just 19 years old, it is no wonder that West Ham rate him so highly.
Burke, in fact, won West Ham’s Young Player of the Year award last season. He made appearances in each of West Ham’s last five league games of last season, filling in at right back. He also started three Europa League games for the Hammers at the start of this campaign, before his move to Bradford City. Having experience at the top level must be a huge confidence boost for the youngster.
It’s exciting to see such a talented player blossom during his time at Valley Parade, and Burke’s temporary move up north highlights the benefits of the loan market. We get the opportunity to have a player with huge potential, while Burke gets regular football under his belt.
It was good to see him score on Tuesday night, therefore, as City put in one of their best performances of the season.
It was display in stark contrast to the dismal home defeat by Colchester United just a week earlier. It’s almost typical of the Bantams to lose to the team rock bottom of the table, yet look so convincing against a side four points clear at the top.
Tuesday’s win also puts City in a very promising position. Level on points with Barnsley in sixth, the Bantams now lie just four points off third place. However, they need to build on the consistency that they have lacked so desperately this season, if they are to sustain their play off challenge.
They can begin to do just that with the visit of Doncaster Rovers. The Bantams have won back-to-back league games just once since the middle of November. This is not a statistic that endears itself to promotion-challenging sides.
Doncaster visit Valley Parade with some serious issues. Having lost seven of their last eight games, they are on the brink of the relegation zone. This is a game that City should be winning, if they are to be considered play off contenders. Having scored just three goals since the middle of January, it is clear that Doncaster are not firing on all cylinders at the moment.
It’s also true to say that this extends to off the pitch, with a pre-match dispute between City and Doncaster over ticket prices attracting plenty of headlines. WOAP has spoken directly to the club about the matter this week, who were clearly unhappy at the way Doncaster sought to put pressure on City to drop prices for visiting supporters from £25 to £15.
Although Doncaster allowed City fans in at £15 in for the meeting earlier in the season, the Bantams’ argue that no reciprocal deal was ever agreed and this was made clear at the time, and that claiming otherwise is a mistake on Doncaster’s part. City are laying on free coach travel for Doncaster supporters, and it’s to be hoped that their journey home at least is an unhappy one.
There are some interesting selection dilemmas for Phil Parkinson on Saturday, especially up front. Does he put his faith in the team that were so convincing on Tuesday? It would be very harsh to drop Jamie Proctor, given his fantastic performance against Burton. Having said that, Wes Thomas is waiting on the sidelines, after a couple of promising performances, and James Hanson (illness permitting) could return, after being nominated for League One Player of the Month.
What’s important though is that City build upon their sublime performance from Tuesday night, and avoid undoing all their hard work.