Saturday, 22 September 2012

PREVIEW: Bradford City Home (22/09/12)

There is one aim that comes above all else when we welcome Bradford to the Kassam: to ensure that four doesn't become five. We are on an awful run of form at the moment, but there were positive signs of recovery against Cheltenham, even if the result didn't go our way.

During Chris Wilder's post-match rant he touched upon one very good point – that at the same stage last season our league record was no better than it is now. Then, of course, there was no clamour for the manager's head even if we weren't entirely happy with the start. The main difference this season is the manner in which we have reached this stage, having got our hopes up after the first three games. The season is young, and even though we now have some catching up to do there is plenty of time yet.

That said, there are clearly some issues which need to be resolved if we are to turn our season around. The stats back up what our eyes have been telling us; that we have been victims of a large number of wonder-goals. Seven of the 14 goals we have conceded so far this season have come from outside the box. Perhaps this is the result giving the opposition too much time and space within shooting distance, perhaps the midfield isn't doing enough to protect the defence.

Our visitors arrive in good form, currently sat in fifth place and unbeaten in three. However, Bradford's strength this season has been at home, with a 100% record at Valley Parade. Away from home, they are still searching for their first league win of the season, with a draw at Accrington and defeats at Rotherham and Gillingham so far on their travels. Bradford also have the benefit of being relatively free of injury and having a settled side after playing the same XI in their last two matches.

In contrast, the Oxford side has been decimated by injury with Jon-Paul Pittman and Adam Chapman joining the likes of Liam Davis, Andy Whing and Michael Duberry on the sidelines. With Jake Forster-Caskey still out through illness and Peter Leven not yet ready to start we are now down to the bare bones and have yet to really see the benefits of the new fitness programme that was introduced over the summer.

However, we do have one mystical factor on our side: the curse of the returning cast-off. Three members of the matchday squad have previously represented Bradford, two of whom have come through the Bantams' youth system. Captain Jake Wright spent his formative years in the Bradford youth system, but was released after making just a single appearance for his hometown club. New signing Luke O'Brien also came through the youth system at Bradford and made more than 100 appearances for them before being released in January and finding himself unemployed this summer. Deane Smalley spent a short and unhappy spell at Valley Parade last season, failing to score in his 13 appearances. Finally, Chris Wilder is another former Bradford player, spending a single season in Division One (the Championship) there towards the end of his playing career.

Further reading: Match preview from a Bradford perspective, and a statistical look at League Two goals.

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