Victory against Hartlepool United could define Bradford City’s season

Bradford City vs Hartlepool United preview

By Ryan Towriss

Two points on the road from a possible six has left Bradford City fans wondering whether the team has enough momentum to reach the League Two automatic promotion places. Draws at both Walsall and Newport have solidified City’s position within the top seven and a tantalising five points away from third. The outcome of the season is still in the balance, but victory against a lowly placed Hartlepool this weekend could tip the scales in City’s favour.

The weight on Hartlepool’s shoulders is the threat of relegation and non-league status. With the league’s worst goal difference at minus 26 and crucially, sandwiched between Harrogate Town five points above and Crawley with two games in hand below, Hartlepool will no doubt fight for every blade of grass at Valley Parade.

A poor start to the season and by September 2022 second bottom in the table, Hartlepool sacked manager Paul Hartley who only joined the club that June. The Northern Echo reported the reason for such a sudden sacking was ‘results on the pitch and growing rifts between certain camps within the club’. It must have been clear to Hartlepool fans, even at that early stage, the club were in a challenging position.

Keith Curle, formerly manager of Northampton and Carlisle, followed on an interim basis to lead the team. Home wins versus Doncaster and Grimsby showed promise that a relegation fight could be avoided and Curle was rewarded with a permanent contract. Despite rising expectations and an impressive away win at relegation rivals Crawley, by February 2023 form had once again stalled and Curle paid the price, with only 13 games remaining.

Former Shrewsbury, Port Vale and York manager John Askey was swiftly appointed to lead Pools into their remaining games of the season. Since taking charge, Hartlepool have played out three hard fought draws, but Askey is yet to secure his first win, planning to make Saturday fourth time lucky.

The cynics amongst us would say that City riding high in the league, in a ‘must win’ home game versus a team much lower in the table is a recipe for disaster. In some ways, I share that concern and worry that unless Andy Cook is on form, the team is less likely to win. I am, however, also of the opinion that City no doubt has a talented squad, with players capable of game winning performances. Confidence amongst the players is undoubtedly high and Mark Hughes has been in bullish form.

In my previous article I made the case that, in League Two, it must be expected teams will become inconsistent and that it’s the bigger picture that counts rather than individual results. That considered, Bradford City are at a crucial stage in their season where confidence and momentum will prove crucial. If City were to miss out on a top three finish, it’s important the team feel able to defeat any of the other teams within the play-offs. And therefore I would argue that every game now could be considered a must win.

Despite the worry, I’m sure that at 1pm on Saturday the team will feel the full and enthusiastic support of the fans. The last-minute winners versus Colchester proved that the team is willing and able to give everything to grind out victory – and we as fans must do the same.

Categories: Previews


7 replies

  1. If we are not capable of beating Hartlepool then what are we talking about? Certainly not automatic promotion. I agree with the writer in thinking we will win this fixture, but both teams have incentives at their respective ends of the table. I hope we play an ultra-attacking team and go all out for it. Draws are of limited use at this point, Cheltenham Week is usually the signal for the winners to come off the bridle and go full pelt in the closing stages of the season-long steeplechase. Let’s get in the money!

  2. A fan for over 78 years .it’s always the same old same old not enough consistency ho
    Come on city .

    • In that 78 years, Stanley, who is the best City player you’ve seen – excluding the mercenaries of the Premier years. I would love in particular to hear about the players that predate my 65 years of watching.

      • Mitchell. THERE WERE VERY FEW BEFORE 1957. Derek Hawksworth, Ivor Powell. I cannot remember any others.

      • Thanks John; I remember Derek Hawksworth, a rangy winger, in his second spell. Many thanks for that.

  3. I feel we are at a crucial stage of the season now, we need to win at home, no question. I think Mark Hughes is a cautious manager who will back himself to play the odds, we have been told repeatedly that we have a talented squad, equipped to go the distance, now is the time to show it to us. I will always struggle to understand the “manage the game” mentality, OK if you have 15 minutes to go, but why, when you score one wouldn’t you want to get another, surely managing a game would be easier with 2 rather than 1 goal?

  4. I fear that the way city play will determine the outcome. The longer the game goes on without a city goal, the team seems to get more frantic and frustrated. Cook apart, we have no out and out goal scorers. Chances are few and we so need to score goals throughout the team and not just rely on Cook. I think if Mark decides a causous approach then I think we will struggle. My guess, the starting line up will be the same. East needs to start.

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