Dark clouds circling Valley Parade

Phil Parkinson

Following Saturday’s 3-2 home defeat to Rotherham United, Bradford slipped to third bottom of the Football League and if alarm bells weren’t ringing prior to the game then they certainly should be now. Despite the opportunity to get out of jail with two stoppage time penalties, only one was taken as City slumped to yet another abject defeat.

On paper the squad would suggest Bradford have enough quality to challenge for a play-off place but in practice the harsh bottom line is that they are simply not good enough. The frustrating thing for Phil Parkinson and the fans alike is the form in the cups where Bradford have produced excellent performances against both Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United as well as Huddersfield Town, all three clubs have been knocked out by Bradford on route to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy semi-final.

Maybe it’s a case of players raising their game when competing against bigger teams with better players, but what good would getting to Wembley and winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy do if come the end of the season Bradford are heading into the doldrums of the non-league. I’m sure Birmingham City would have sacrificed winning the League Cup last year if it meant retaining their Premier League status.

So far the JPT has been the only positive in an otherwise poor season to date, knocking out both Sheffield clubs and Huddersfield on penalties and deservedly going through the ties after some excellent performances has been a rare highlight. Generally speaking the JPT is a cup competition that is disregarded by many a club, but with Oldham now in City’s sights and only a few short steps away from a possible date at Wembley it’s a competition that City are taking very serious.

If I’m honest, in the games against Huddersfield and Sheffield United the best I was hoping for was a good performance from the team and not to be embarrassed by losing heavily, but it has so far worked in Bradford’s favour by playing bigger games rather than an Accrington or Morecambe as Bradford seemingly raise their game for the bigger occasion. At Huddersfield the game finished 2-2 before City eased past Town on penalties whilst at Bramall Lane it finished 1-1 as Bradford missed a couple of great chances to win the game outright before winning a tense penalty shoot out. With Oldham away in the semi’s the club has a real chance of getting to the northern final and who knows Wembley could be on the cards…. we can but dream!

Aside from our excellent run in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Bradford have knocked out another league one side this time in the FA Cup first round when Rochdale left the competition thanks to a wonder goal from Nakhi Wells that has to be a contender for goal of the round; Wells picked the ball up in his own half before heading into the ‘dale half – with not much on he unleashed a delightful strike into the top corner – take a bow son!

In the league, one thing that is consistent is that Bradford are inconsistent. Off field changes during the opening few months of the season clearly haven’t helped the situation with former manager Peter Jackson walking out just a few games into the season. New gaffer Phil Parkinson has tried to put his mark on the squad with a host of new signings but currently it isn’t working out, obviously it is going to take time for his new signings to gel but time isn’t something City have a lot of; if the results continue like this over the coming weeks then City can forget about anything else this season aside from trying to stay in the Football League.

It probably sounds negative, but after witnessing some really poor performances over the course of the season and especially in the last two league home games, I think the root of the problem probably goes deeper than what people would like to believe.

Going into the season, you pick out certain teams that you would expect to do well and some that you expect to struggle. I had City challenging strongly for a play-off place, despite only just staying up last season I generally thought City had turned the corner but at this juncture they haven’t unfortunately. If at all possible at this point City have gone backwards on last season – that’s an achievement in itself.

Despite all the negativity surrounding the club with the league position, the quality in the squad would suggest City are capable of achieving so much more. For a League Two side to have the likes of Andrew Davies, Craig Fagan, Kyel Reid and Matt Duke in the ranks and to be where Bradford are in the league is shocking. These are players who have clearly played at a higher level and frankly must be wondering what they are doing turning out for Bradford.

Currently I’m a very disgruntled City fan; the season hasn’t panned out how I thought it would and that goes for the majority of fans. Pressure will grow on Parkinson if results don’t start to improve over the coming weeks, but let’s be realistic if for whatever reason fans started calling for Parkinson to go, would that really help? The answer is no. Parkinson needs time and plenty of it at this rate to get his own squad together and to get them playing his way. Expect wholesale changes in January as City look to strengthen and move away from the drop zone.

Who’d have thought it; Bradford’s next league home game in a couple of weeks pits us against Plymouth Argyle. Aside from Swindon, both Bradford and the Green Army are the two biggest sides in the league but it will be a big relegation six-pointer when the two meet….how the mighty have fallen…

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

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