Where We Are
Whatever way you look at it, it appears things are improving in and around the club. The team are unbeaten in all competitions since losing to Brentford at the end of September, if you count the penalty defeat to Leyton Orient in the JPT as a draw, injured players are returning to the line-up, there’s even positive news off the pitch. The cold war between the council and SISU appears to be over for the moment, with discussions having recently taking place regarding the club/SISU buying the Ricoh Arena outright. Despite all of the scare-mongerers’ predictions, the sounds from the club are that players don’t have to be sold in the January transfer window, although Cyrus Christie’s ongoing contract situation may force our hand, Pressley has even started to talk about signing players to aid a play-off push.
For tomorrow’s match in front of the Sky cameras, only Jordan Willis will be unavailable for selection. Billy Daniels has returned to training and should be on the bench also Cyrus Christie lasted 90 minutes last Friday, after both players have overcome recent injury issues. John Fleck’s return to the starting line-up is absolutely crucial, Adam Barton looked off the pace even against League 2 opponents last Friday highlighting Fleck’s importance to the side.
Last Time We Met
Bradford have never really been a side that Coventry have played regularly over the years, despite both teams having a long history in the Football League. The last time Coventry played Bradford a Dean Windass goal secured all 3 points for the Bantams at Valley Parade, a season where Bradford’s financial troubles led to an extended stay outside of the top 2 divisions from which the club are only starting to recover from. Bradford have spent over a decade in the doldrums following their surprisingly long two year stay in the Premiership, their facilities and reputation should make them more regular visitors to at least the second tier but the club are one of English football’s great underachievers.
How Are They Doing?
Under manager Phil Parkinson though the good ship Bradford City have started to turn itself right. Most notably during their run to the League Cup final last year where their spirit and organisation led them past such vaunted Premier League names such as Wigan, Arsenal and Villa. However their recent form has been abject, no league wins since the end of September, yet they are only 3 points outside the play-offs going into tomorrow’s match.
Confidence should be low but they remain a difficult challenge, especially at Valley Parade where they have been in some really strong showings, in particular a 4-0 win at the start of September against Brentford. There is talk that Parkinson will shuffle his squad around in order to send a message to some key players who are currently out of form.
Their recent run has coincided with the loss of former Stoke and Middlesbrough centre-back Andrew Davies, one of the best defenders in the Football League on his day. However they’ve brought in the classy but injury prone Matthew Bates, also ex-Middlesbrough, to cover the gap. Bates is also considered not just a strong player in the Football League but would be a Premier League player had he not struggled so badly with injuries. Bradford have strength in depth in the centre of their defence with Northern Ireland international Rory McArdle, former League One winner Matt Taylor and the promising Carl McHugh also to call upon. In addition Stephen Darby, the right-back, and James Meredith, left-back/midfield, are also considered to be amongst the best in the division in their respective positions.
Their weakest area is probably in central midfield where veteran campaigner Gary Jones is a key player but apparently out-of-form. The signing of Jason Kennedy, Jones’s Rochdale team-mate and another Middlesbrough academy graduate, has not come off as well as anticipated. The other options in the centre are more defensively minded which can leave their strikeforce isolated and easy to mark out of the game. Winger Kyel Reid though is an important player in linking the defence and attack with his pace, trickery and eye for an outrageous goal.
Up front has been the most vaunted area of Bradford City’s recent rise to prominence in English football. James Hanson was for a long-time the only player the club had paid a fee for, although very few bottom two tier sides do pay transfer fees anymore, and is a classic target man in the Clive Platt mould. For a long time Hanson was the target of abuse for Bradford City fans for not weighing in with the goals that they expected from him but the arrival of the Bermudan Nahki Wells in summer 2011 has taken the pressure and burden away from the former Guiseley striker. Wells scored 18 league goals last season to lead the Bantams to eventual victory in the play-offs and has grabbed 8 goals in 11 in the league so far, although he hasn’t scored since scoring both Bradford’s goals in a 2-2 draw with Colchester on September 14th.
Over the past few games Coventry have started slowly and grown into the match, there is a sense that this has been the product of our good form with players expecting rather than trying to make things happen. In itself it’s not a necessarily bad thing as it gives the manager the option a kick up the backside in his half-time team-talk. However the side’s sluggish start to the AFC Wimbledon game, only starting to play after going a goal down, may indicate that our side is becoming complacent with our good form. It’s important then to get off to a good start in tomorrow’s match in order to not give an out-of-form Bradford side the hope that they can get something out of this encounter.
A win tomorrow would see us leap-frog Bradford and move into 8th, just 2 points off Swindon, the team currently occupying our rightful place in the play-offs. Despite my negativity I can’t really see Coventry losing this match as long as they don’t go into the match expecting the 3 points to magically present themselves to us.
My prediction is that Coventry will win 2-0.