Backing the Bantams

December cut short by the weather, a third round exit in the FA Cup and only one defeat in February. The winter months have been a mixed bag for Bradford City but recent signs are very encouraging for the remaining 10 or so league games.

Light December Schedule

The heavy winter rain put paid to two of the Bantams’ home games in December, including the Boxing Day clash against league leading Burton Albion.

That left them with just the second round FA Cup tie against non-league Chesham, which they won with ease and two League 1 road trips.

A visit to Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium produced a 1-0 win courtesy of a Tony McMahon second half strike. Then a Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United, which ended 2015 on a downer with a 3-1 reverse leaving Phil Parkinson’s men in 10th position at the turn of the year.

Into The New Year

January began with a second straight defeat, 3-0 away to Gillingham. The ‘Gills’, however, were riding high in second spot and two of Bradford’s three other defeats in 2016 have been against some of the division’s best.

First, a Barnsley team who had beaten beat Rochdale 6-1 the previous week and have been on a great run of form since Christmas. A second minute goal by the Tykes began a frustrating night in which City’s impressive attacking display ultimately proved fruitless, 1-0 the result.

League leaders Burton at the Pirelli Stadium followed ten days later, the poor performance and 3-1 defeat being, I guess, the catalyst behind the new recruits that were to follow.

Loan Signings

The ‘goals for’ column has been a problem all season for Bradford so it was no surprise to see two strikers arrive first, Wes Thomas on a three month loan deal from Birmingham City and Jamie Proctor from Fleetwood, initially a loan with Devante Cole going the other way. Proctor has since signed a deal until the end of the season.

Then came the addition of Premier League West Ham’s ‘impressive’ 19 year old midfielder Josh Cullen, also on a loan. Cullen joined in time to start at Peterborough in a 4-0 thumping of the ‘Posh’ with James Hanson scoring with two headers.

I reckon Cullen has been the driving force behind Bantams recent run of just one defeat in seven, a prime example being Blackpool away in which he showed his top flight pedigree.

The only dropped points in this period were against Bury and Colchester.

City were knocked out on penalties in the Emirates FA Cup by the ‘Shakers’ after 210 goalless minutes and the same 0-0 score line at Gigg Lane was preceded by bottom of the table Colchester completing a shock double at Valley Parade. They seem to be a bogie team!

Knocking On The Door

The improved run of form since Burton away saw Bradford gradually climb the table and the form of the table-topping ‘Brewers’ hadn’t been great of late when they were visitors early in March.

However, they have been the most consistent team in League 1 hence their top three presence for much of the season, so a tough encounter was expected.

The absence of leading scorer James Hanson and last season’s player of the year, Rory McArdle, didn’t stop Bradford from producing a great team effort to see them off, Kyel Reid and Reece Burke getting the goals.

They followed this up with a 2-1 home win against a Doncaster Rovers side who have endured a terrible run of form and are at the wrong end of the table. Derby games can sometimes go against form but two strikes from Proctor sealed the three points.

This result saw the Bantams enter the top six on 58 points.

Things have tightened up at the top with pace setters Gillingham, Walsall and Coventry slipping up in recent weeks, the ‘Sky Blues’ in particular having taken a nose dive since the half way point, so Bradford now have a great chance to secure a play-off spot if they can keep their form going. Who knows, maybe even a push at automatic promotion!

It’s not going to be easy in the short term, though. A trip to second place Wigan then a visit from a Millwall side who have scored 13 and conceded just three goals in their last eight games!!

Come out of these tough games with, let’s say, four points and who knows what they can achieve as April looks like a month of very winnable games.

Check back here in a few weeks to get my take on the ‘business end’ of the season and what will hopefully be a preview of the play-offs with the Bantams taking part!

On A Lighter Note….

The Club has been running a prediction league for its sponsors and Provident’s in-house ‘experts’ have done rather well, leading the way at the end of February! #provvyleagueleaders