Monday, 8 April 2013

Let Battle Commence

Bradford can’t afford anything less than the best as late play-off rivals Bristol Rovers rock up at Valley Parade

The battle for promotion is intensifying
   23 minutes. Garry Thompson’s lofted delivery fell into the opposition’s half. The Northampton goalkeeper came out to collect the ball, but a communication breakdown between him and his defender saw it propelled into the path of a lively Nahki Wells.
   It was as though time slowed down. The goal was empty. To grab the lead, Nahki just needed to chase and convert, but would he be able to get there? Could get that essential touch? It was a difficult angle and the ball was rapidly spinning away. It was as much a will-he-won’t-he chance as you’ll see all season.
   But Nahki stretched. And Nahki scored.
   Valley Parade erupted. Finally, City had scored first, and against the physical, bullish Northampton who had been a nightmare down the right side. The Cobblers were left scratching their heads, wondering how costly their defensive blunder may prove to be. The Bradford City fans, though, didn’t need telling how valuable that mishap was.
   Last Monday, before Bradford took on Torquay, the Bantams were eight points off of the play-offs. Now, City sit in eighth, invitingly close to that vital seventh space. A place in the end of season showpiece lingers temptingly two points away. We are so nearly there.
   City’s habit of coming from behind has foreshadowed the club’s promotion charge, in which they have done exactly that: crept up on the leaders to really add substance to the play-off bid.
   Tomorrow, Bristol Rovers, who are, like City, chasing promotion, will face Bradford. The Bantams must continue their excellent midweek home form, and take advantage of the fact that Exeter and Rotherham are locking horns with each other: regardless of whatever happens at the New York Stadium tomorrow, a Bradford win would see Parkinson’s men sneak into the seventh spot.
   All of Bradford’s remaining five games involve contesting their fellow promotion contenders. City have still yet to play the aforementioned Bristol Rovers, as well as  Chesterfield, Rotherham, Burton Albion and Cheltenam. Every game is, effectively, a six pointer.
   Pile up victories, and City’s position amongst the pack is strengthened. Anything less, though, and the chances of another trip to Wembley will rapidly slip away.
   As the season draws to a finish, it’s clear that the stakes couldn’t be any higher.

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