It’s funny how things turn out. The P word was briefly back on everyone’s lips following the 6-0 demolition of hapless Swindon, with the gap to the last play-off spot a manageable five points at the end of that game. A few hours later, though, the play-offs seemed a step too far as Millwall beat Burton and as a result the gap was bumped up to a less-catchable eight points.
However here’s the twist. The club now sitting in that last play-off place just happens to be Bradford City, who we visit on Saturday. And if we can come away with a win, then game on for the play-offs. Even if we only manage a draw at Valley Parade there is still reason to think we can still make the play-offs because looking at our remaining five games after that, every one is winnable, even against leaders Burton who have been stuttering of late. It could then all come down to the last game at Nigel’s other SUFC.
So what are the chances of winning at Bradford? Well, there’s good news and bad news. On the plus side for them, they are giving their all to gain promotion, even suspending takeover talks with two German investors so it does not cause disruption. Phil Parkinson’s side are also on a timely run of four wins in their last five games, with the backbone of their promotion tilt a healthy record of clean sheets – 17 in the league this season. It is something they pride themselves on.
“We value clean sheets and we work hard to keep clean sheets,” said assistant manager Phil Parkin after Monday’s 1-0 win at Crewe. “The key thing when you get your nose in front is the knowhow and mentality to stay there. We would like to be free-scoring but there were loads of 1-0s on Monday.” At home they have conceded just 16 goals in 19 league games
Another factor Bradford have in their favour is a large and noisy home crowd. There were 18,000 at their last home game against Millwall and as defender Nathan Clarke admits: “The fans are a big help. Teams come to Valley Parade and when our fans are right behind us, it is difficult for the opposition.”
On the pitch, Bradford’s big threat up front will come from Jamie Proctor who scored the winner at Crewe last Monday — his fourth goal since arriving from Fleetwood in January — and is currently keeping the club’s top scorer James Hanson out the side.
So those are the pluses. What about the downsides, the areas which can give us hope? Bradford have a reputation for being a dangerous side. This is largely built on their great FA Cup run of last season when they downed Chelsea and Sunderland on the way to the quarter-final. However, they only finished seventh in League One and this season are on about the same level, hit by a lack of consistency and some bad injuries.
They most definitely are beatable, just ask struggling Colchester who won 2-1 at Valley Parade at the start of this month, one of four home league defeats Bradford have suffered this season. They also have a problem scoring at home, finding the net just 24 times in their 19 home league games (as bad as Scunny!). So with their frugal defence and problems scoring, and our problems scoring (Monday apart), it looks set to be a tight game that could be settled by one goal or end up as another 0-0.
But as our manager Graham Alexander said on Thursday: “Going there and getting a 1-0 win would be just as good as scoring six against Swindon. It’s a tough place to go and we know what we’re going to get. There will be a massive crowd, fully behind their side. It will be a tough, physical battle.”
Hopefully, it will also be a great day out for our fantastic away support who will no doubt make their presence heard during a game that has so much hanging on it.