Prior to kick off at Northampton Town on Tuesday night Bradford sat in fifth place in the League Two table and at the full time whilst despite The Bantams running out 1-0 winners they finished the day in fifth. Wins elsewhere for Cheltenham and Fleetwood denied Phil Parkinson’s men the chance to jump above our rivals and into the automatic promotion places. The win at the Sixfields Stadium did however move Bradford clear into the play-off places with a three point cushion back to the pack chasing to get into the four elusive positions.
Personally I have been very impressed with how Phil Parkinson’s men have started in the first three months of the season, back in the summer wholesale changes were made and so far the new signings have been really good. The likes of Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones in the middle of the park have run the show against numerous sides this season, whilst some other key signings such as Andrew Davies, James Meredith and Rory McArdle, all of which make up three of the Bantams back four, have been superb.
The season hasn’t been without the odd hiccup along the way, such as the 4-0 mauling The Bantams received at the start of September at Rotherham United and then the 4-3 defeat at Dagenham, having been 3-0 down early in the second half against John Still’s men. What has impressed me most after succumbing to defeat, deserved or not, is how the side has bounced back in the following games. It has really started me believing that Bradford could be firmly in the promotion shake up come May.
It makes a pleasant change for the West Yorkshire side to be in the mix at the right end of the table, more often than not over the past couple of years the club have been stuck in the relegation mix following terrible starts to the season. That has not been the case this time around and hopefully after years of misery the Bradford faithful will finally have something to cheer and be proud about.
The home form had been superb and up until Port Vale arrived at the end of September boasted a 100% win record; Micky Adams men did a job on Bradford that day as the bizarrely prolific Tom Pope scored yet another goal. It was a soft goal to concede from Bradford’s point of view as skipper Gary Jones left a header back to the keeper short, allowing Pope to nip in and score – in fairness to the Port Vale striker he still had two defenders around him but still finished nicely.
York City followed Vale to Valley Parade a couple of weeks later and left with a point, Ashley Chambers scored a terrific half volley for the visitors but that was cancelled out by the equality terrific solo strike from Zavon Hines – the former West Ham youth and Burnley player has struggled for form since the opening weeks of the season, and it’s hoped that the goal against the league new boys will breathe new confidence into the winger.
On the road the results have been okay; the win at Northampton made it two wins on the road in the league this season for Bradford following their previous success against Oxford United, in a game which Bradford dominated the game to run out 2-0 winners in the Oxfordshire sunshine.
The following away league game took Bradford just over the pennines to Rochdale, traditionally The Bantams faithful turn out in force for this fixture and once again a huge away following watched on as Dale’s ten men hung on for a point. Bradford were well on top prior to Bobby Grant’s reckless first half lunge that gave the former Scunthorpe and Accrington striker his marching orders, unfortunately though City couldn’t break the stubborn Rochdale back line and left Spotland with a point knowing it should have been all three.
During the Rochdale game, left winger Kyel Reid went off injured early on. Had Reid been on the pitch for the full 90 minutes at Spotland I’m sure Bradford would have claimed all three points. In the previous game against Port Vale, influential midfielder and arguably Bradford’s player of the season so far Gary Jones injured his back, so it’s no surprise that Bradford have stuttered in recent weeks with Jones and Reid both watching from the stands. Both players had played a key role in the early season form which took City up to the edge of the automatic promotion places.
Parkinson last week moved into the transfer market as the first loanee of the season arrived at Valley Parade, Scottish left winger Craig Forsyth from Watford on a two month loan. Given the fact that Reid is likely to be out until late November early December it looks like Forsyth will be the man to make things tick on the left hand side. He put in a superb performance for the Hornets when Bradford travelled to Vicarage Road in the FA Cup third Round last season, in which he scored a brilliant individual goal and if the young winger can reproduce such form at Valley Parade over the coming weeks the blow of losing Reid will be soften significantly.
Away from the league, the cup competitions have also seen Bradford flourish. In the Capital One Cup The Bantams are into the fourth round, with their third away tie of the competition to be played against Premier League Wigan Athletic next Tuesday. The fixture against Wigan has already sold out with an away following of around 5,000 expected to descend on the JJB Stadium in hope of a huge cup upset.
Wins in the early rounds against Notts County and Watford set up a third round all League Two affair against Burton Albion. The Brewers raced undeservedly into a 2-0 lead at Valley Parade before half time. In the second half as the gaffer rolled the dice with the substitutions and his changes had the desired effect, Bermudan striker Nahki Wells netting late on before tapping home in stoppage time to send the game into extra time. Then with just minutes left former Liverpool trainee Stephen Darby drove home from 30 yards in off the post to score his first the club and to send the relatively small crowd into raptures.
In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy came more cup progression and in equally dramatic fashion despite the game itself being a dire 0-0 draw. This time against League One strugglers Hartlepool United at the Victoria Ground. Jon McLaughlin, just like last season in the same competition, proved the goalkeeping hero saving from the spot as Bradford ran out 3-2 winners on penalties to set up a tie away at Port Vale in the next round.
Prior to the trip to face Hartlepool, the Bantams crashed to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Dagenham. The Daggers raced into a 3-0 lead early in the second half before a spirited fight back by Bradford made the game 3-2 thanks to another Wells double, however against the run of play the Londoners made the game 4-2, before allowing Alan Connell to setup a grandstand finish when he made it 4-3 with a couple of minutes remaining.
Last Saturday, Bradford returned to winning ways at Valley Parade with a comprehensive 3-1 win over fellow promotion chasers Cheltenham. The Bantams came from a goal down to win, which included a superb team goal rounded off by Australian left back James Meredith rifling into the roof of the net to seal the points with the third of the afternoon for the home side.
Off the field Bermudan international striker Nahki Wells has signed a new long term deal. The young striker is one of the hottest young properties in the lower leagues and will no doubt play at a higher level one day – hopefully that’s with Bradford, but more realistically it will probably be elsewhere. The fact that Wells was going to be out of contract in the summer was worrying; would the board have cashed in on him during the January sales and with that hinder our ambition of promotion?
Thankfully that is one question we won’t have to answer now, as any club who wants him will have to pay good money for a striker who is bang in form and has eight league goals already to his name this season.
In conclusion it’s been a good start to the 2012-13 season for Phil Parkinson’s men. Hopefully, Bradford can stay consistent enough heading into the busy period of games leading up to Christmas and be firmly in the mix come the turn of the year, something which has not happened for quite some time.
Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger
Mark tweets at @scully87