Fleetwood Town's league campaign continues at home to Bradford City, a side who have put the npower League 2 on the map by becoming the first fourth-tier team to reach the League Cup final in over 50
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town's league campaign continues at home to Bradford City, a side who have put the npower League 2 on the map by becoming the first fourth-tier team to reach the League Cup final in over 50 years.
Three Premier League sides were defeated on the way to the final. Saturday's game is City's first since the semi-final defeat of Aston Villa and the club's first visit to Highbury.
Town lie 8th in the table but just three points from automatic promotion and manager Graham Alexander will be hoping that, with the January window closed, the six new faces will add impetus to the squad and increase competition for places. The signing of striker Jean-Michel Fontaine, subject to clearance, was the final act but the Reunion international will not feature in tomorrow's game.
There was little action around the treatment room in training at Fylde Rugby Club as a good complement of players worked to catch the manager's eye. Andy Mangan remains the only longer term absentee.
'We've got excellent competition for places,' said Alexander,'and options all over the pitch which is what you want as a manager. We know we are playing a tough opponent but if we can repeat the dedication and commitment shown last week against Oxford we can provide a stern test for Bradford.'
'They are a big club and have done exceptionally well to reach a major cup final so I'm delighted for them. They've deserved it. They are also still in touch with the play-offs so there is still much for them to play for.'
With a thirteenth clean sheet achieved last Saturday, Town's record of a goal conceded per game is the second best in the division and, with Youl Mawene returning to fitness, Alexander feels that he has enough options at the back to cover the departures of Steve McNulty on a free transfer to Luton and reserve keeper, Chris Maxwell, on loan to former club Wrexham. Goalkeeping coach, David Lucas, will act as back-up to Scott Davies. Up front, Jon Parkin will be keen for more action after making a goal-scoring return from the bench against Oxford.
The cup heroics have somewhat obscured the fact that City have not won a league match for five weeks, although their last two games have fallen victim to frozen pitches. Form over the last six games places the Bantams 21st in the npower League 2 and with four games to be played before the Wembley date with Swansea, there is no time to look ahead to the big day as they make a push for a play-off place from their current 10th position. Just three out of their 11 league wins have been on the road.
City have avoided the wintry weather with a four-day training period in Tenerife, a break which manager, Phil Parkinson, feels will revitalise his squad. He has added three new faces during the transfer window with one of them, experienced centre back Michael Nelson, standing by to start following his move from Kilmarnock. Fellow defender, Ryan Dickson, has recovered from the thigh problem that forced him to miss the second leg against Villa and Curtis Good is expected to be declared fit after a throat problem whilst away.
Parkinson summed up the club's position in an interview with the Bradford 'Telegraph and Argus':
' We've just got Michael Nelson, Andrew Davies is going to be back in three to four weeks and everyone's looking good. We've got a decent squad. At the moment someone's going to have to be very good to knock someone else out of the team. Those who haven't been playing are chomping at the bit.
'The lads feel as though they've had a good break (in Tenerife) and it's kind of drawn a line under the Aston Villa game. We are going to get a lot of attention over the next couple of weeks so this break was just what we needed.'
'Fleetwood are the big spenders in the league and have acquitted themselves well after coming up a division. We'll go there confident and looking forward to getting playing again.'
Town lost 1-0 at Valley Parade, their first away game as a Football League club, in front of the biggest crowd of season and with the Bantams recent cup success the home attendance record could be beaten.