Preview: Bradford City

Where We Are

Here it is, the new league season is set to start. It’s been a difficult summer where once again the realities of playing our home fixtures outside of Coventry in front of minuscule crowds has really started to affect the team that Steven Pressley can field.

On the down side we have lost 78% of our league goals scored from last season with Callum Wilson, Franck Moussa and Cyrus Christie having departed to add to the mid-season loss of Leon Clarke as well as several loanees. Our new signings between them scored 14 league goals last season, resulting in a net loss of around 58%.

Could Reda Johnson be an inspired addition to the squad?
Could Reda Johnson be an inspired addition to the squad?

It’s clear then that the challenge for Pressley will be to eek everything he can get out of the resources from his disposal. For the most part our new signings have the look of second or third choice to them, they are either misfits from other clubs or players with poor injury records. However much of the same could have been said about our squad last season and in actual fact the signings of Jim O’Brien and Reda Johnson in particular come with a greater reputation at a higher level than the likes of Leon Clarke and Franck Moussa had when coming to us.

We head into Saturday’s fixture with Bradford City with a sense of the unknown, whilst pre-season has given us a few clues, we do not know just how good the team that we have is. This is the time to be excited about our hopes, soak it in, by 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon you will have to wait another year for the chance.

In terms of team selection it is more-or-less a full squad for Steven Pressley to pick from, aside from the permanently injured Mohamed Coulibaly. The selection dilemma seems to be whether to go for a 3-5-2 formation or a more standard 4-4-2. With Bradford offering a physical presence in attack it would seem to be sensible to stick an extra-man in defence, I would expect Pressley to start the season with the 3-5-2 (or 5-3-2 depending on how you see it).

Last Time We Met

The last time we actually played Bradford was a drab affair at Sixfields towards the end of last season. Having just beaten Stevenage and Crewe after tightening up at the back and with Bradford City sitting comfortably in mid-table, a low quality game ended 0-0.

The previous meeting back in November last season was considerably more memorable. The Sky Blues who were off the back of a three-game winning streak in the league headed to Valley Parade full of confidence. After racing into a two goal lead it seemed that the club was on the verge of making last season something to remember for all the right reasons. However Bradford capitalised on some shocking defensive errors and naivety from Coventry City to first level the scores at 2-2, after the Sky Blues re-took the lead from an emphatic Callum Wilson finish, Bradford won a final minute penalty to end the game at 3-3.

Of course that fixture was also notable for the clash of personalities between Steven Pressley and Bradford boss Phil Parkinson. It all got a little bit childish with Pressely describing Bradford’s playing style as ‘dark-age football’ something which Bradford fans have not forgotten.

How Are They Doing?

It has been a difficult summer for Bradford City too. The club spent a considerable amount of money on bringing Aaron McLean to the club in January and it has severely restricted their ability in the transfer market. What’s more is that McLean has only managed four goals in 20 league appearances for the club and he is unlikely to feature against us.

Those of you who listen to the Nii Lamptey Show will have heard that Bradford had the smallest squad in League One, this has been changed with the club signing four players this week. However indicative of their financial limitations is that goalies Ben Williams and Matthew Urwin as well as winger Mo Sharrif have all arrived on ‘non-contracts’ which means Bradford are not paying them. They have also added Filipe Morais to their squad this week on a short-term deal, he could cause problems for us.

Phil Parkinson has attempted to introduce a more attractive playing style at Valley Parade over the summer. Gone are the midfield warriors of the dual Wembley appearance season in Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones and in are the more nimble and fleet-footed likes of Billy Knott, Matt Dolan and Alan Sheehan. Expect our opponents to line up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation as they look to progress beyond a game-plan based on James Hanson’s physical prowess in attack.

Danger man - James Hanson
Danger man – James Hanson

Of course Bradford would surely be foolish not to fully leave out the option of long-balls towards Hanson and his battle with Reda Johnson could decide the winner of this fixture. Former Crawley attacker Billy Clarke is another nimble and dynamic option and could trouble our defence either as part of a front two or playing at the tip of Bradford’s diamond.

In defence the key man for the Bantams is Andrew Davies, the former Stoke and Middlesbrough defender had dropped through the leagues after a promising start to his career as a Premier League player. In recent seasons though Davies has established himself as a commanding presence and leader in Bradford’s defence. Aside from Hanson, Davies is the star player for an otherwise severely average Bradford City team.

The midfield will be provide Bradford with the most to worry or be excited about. Former Notts County player Gary Liddle will sit at the base of the midfield with a combination of Mark Yeates, Billy Knott and Matt Dolan likely to be in front of him. With midfield runners a problem for three-man defences, this could be a genuine area of concern for Coventry City. However if Fleck and Thomas can get in between and put pressure on Bradford’s midfielders then we could over-run them.


This game is between two teams with plenty to prove to themselves. The indication then would be that this could be a low quality game between two teams adapting to a change in playing style. However the history of this fixture from last season could dictate a much more competitive affair than it might otherwise have been.

That being said, I am going to play it safe and predict a 1-1 draw.

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