Where We Are
After securing a vital two wins over Crewe Alexandra and Stevenage last week, Coventry City are on the verge of effectively securing their league status for another season. A win in this rearranged fixture against Bradford City would take us up to 51 points, a tally that hasn’t seen a side relegated from the division since Torquay in 2005. Manager Steven Pressley has set the team up to concentrate on not conceding first and then trying to nick something down the other end of the pitch, the performances haven’t been pretty in the most recent games but the points more than make up for this shortcoming.
Tonight’s team line-up will be affected by the continued suspension of John Fleck after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season against Stevenage, it could also be affected by injury doubts cast over Callum Wilson and Danny Seaborne. Whilst Seaborne has impressed in recent games, you’d imagine that Jordan Willis would be shifted from right wing-back with Cyrus Christie given the nod should Seaborne fail to be fit enough for the game. The more pressing concern would be the idea of playing without Callum Wilson, whilst we’ve lacked an attacking impetus in recent games Wilson has been the one player that has given us pretty much any forward threat. Should Wilson be missing then it could tempt Pressley to reshuffle his team towards a more attacking line-up with a front two and a back four.
Last Time We Met
In what many have now reflected on as the turning point of our season we threw away 2-0 and then a 3-2 lead at Valley Parade to end a 3-game winning run in the league thanks to a final second Nakhi Wells penalty. In a fiery contest tempers flared on the touchline between Pressley and Bradford manager Phil Parkinson with our manager later describing Bradford as playing ‘Dark Ages football’. Since then both managers have been clear that they have resolved the issues that flared up in that tempestuous contest but there is the sense that both managers would enjoy seeing the other lose tonight.
How Are They Doing?
After starting the season strongly, Bradford struggled for wins from October onwards but managed to pick up points with late goals and scrappy performances. They’re not out of relegation danger quite yet but as they’re on the same amount of points as us they’ll feel that their just that one win away from securing survival. At times over the past few months Bradford fans have questioned the tactics of Phil Parkinson, the man who got them to the League Cup final, but many still feel that his past achievements at a club that has been in the doldrums for a long time allows Parkinson the chance to show that he’s not just a one trick pony.
The key player for Bradford is James Hanson in attack. After the loss of the former Guiseley striker’s partner in attack Nakhi Wells in January, the main attacking burden has rested on the considerable shoulders of Hanson. Based on his performance against us back in November he’s the kind of nightmarish aerial presence that defences hate to deal with. The game tonight could rest on who much the team have learned to deal with these sort of target-man strikers having struggled against them for most of this season.
Another player who impressed against us back in November was Gary Jones, their captain. The former Rochdale man is a classic box-to-box midfielder who is a real dynamo and can force his way through teams with sheer will-power and application of physicality. However in recent weeks there has been a feeling that Jones has had a detrimental impact on the team’s defensive shape which has left holes in the midfield for opposing teams to exploit.
Finally the other of Bradford’s main threats has come from the wings where they have the pacey Kyel Reid and Kyle Bennett or can use the more skilfull Mark Yeates. Reid operates mainly on the left and gave Cyrus Christie a torrid time back in November with his turn of acceleration. Bennett, on loan from Doncaster, can either play on the right or behind the striker and was once a key player in providing penetration from the flanks for Sean O’Driscoll’s Doncaster side in the Championship a few seasons ago. Mark Yeates is a player who has been around the blocks after one time being a youth prospect at Tottenham, he has an almost indecent level of skill and trickery on the ball and has a great delivery with his right foot, the one thing holding him back though has been a lack of pace and that has often left him struggling to get into the team.
Whilst it’s good to see the team secure back-t0-back wins for the first time this year in the league, the level of performance has been pretty poor. In both the Crewe and Stevenage games we’ve had to rely on wonder-saves from Joe Murphy or the opposition simply failing to take presentable chances in front of goal. Against a better side in Bradford tonight we’re going to have to reduce some of the sloppy defending as well as provide a much greater attacking threat than in previous games. Whether we’ll be able to do this is debatable and perhaps we could simply get lucky for a third time in a row but I would like to see the team play a more positive brand of football now that safety in the league is all but secured.
I reckon that both teams would be fairly happy to take a point from tonight’s game and that will be how it ends, 1-1.