Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Bradford City breakdown – the lowdown on Millwall’s League One play-off final...

Bradford City breakdown – the lowdown on Millwall’s League One play-off final opponents

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Bradford's Charlie Wyke (left) and Mark Marshall celebrate after the final whistle during the Sky Bet League One playoff semi-final, second leg match at Highbury Stadium, Fleetwood. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday May 7, 2017. See PA story: SOCCER Fleetwood. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Bradford City were play-off winners at Wembley in 2013 – beating  Northampton 3-0 in the League Two decider.

Simon Parker, chief sports writer for Bradford Telegraph & Argus, gives us the lowdown on the Bantams ahead of Saturday’s clash with Millwall.

Team news 

Striker Alex Jones pulled his hamstring in the last game of the season against Rochdale but he is back in full training and should be alright for the final.

Any big decisions for boss Stuart McCall to make on the starting 11?

Charlton Athletic’s Lewis Page, (left) battles for possession of the ball with Bradford City’s Mark Marshall, (right)

He fiddles with his formation quite regularly in midfield and attack. It’s a toss-up between Jones and Billy Clarke as to who plays up front – Jones fits a 4-3-3 because he has a bit of pace and can play wide right. Then it would be Mark Marshall on the left and Charlie Wyke through the middle. Clarke isn’t quick but has that technical ability. He likes to play off a striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. The defence picks itself.

Predicted team

GK Doyle RB McMahon CB McArdle, CB Knight-Percival LB Meredith CM Vincelot CM Cullen CM Law RW Jones LW Marshall CF Wyke.

What has been the key to Bradford’s success?

Consistency. They had momentum right from the start. They went fifth after the third game of the season, a 2-1 win at Milton Keynes, and never dropped below that.

They never lost two games in a row and were unbeaten at home. They just had a consistent record – no real blips.

In December they drew four games in a row and that was probably their stickiest patch. They never had a crisis moment.

Charlie Wyke got 18 for Carlisle and then seven since he joined Bradford in the January window.

Up until January they didn’t score enough goals – particularly at home. They would play teams off the park and end up drawing 1-1. It was frustrating as hell.

They had 12 home draws and you could make a case for them winning nine or 10 of those.

When they sold James Hanson to Sheffield United it suited everybody – both clubs and the player.

It freed up money to bring in Wyke, someone they had been looking at.

His goals have dried up just a little bit in the last few weeks but if you look at the whole season he has got 25 goals – since stepping up from League Two he has not looked out of place.

Does defeat at Wembley have major implications for holding onto prize assets?

The chairman said right from the start that he would wait until the end of the season to discuss contracts.

There are a few due to be free agents – Marshall, James Meridith and Rory McArdle. Tony McMahon is also in that situation, but I think he will get one regardless.

For some it is hanging on what happens next.

Who have been the standout performers this season?

Charlton Athletic’s Lewis Page, (left) battles for possession of the ball with Bradford City’s Mark Marshall, (right)

Marshall – it has been like chalk and cheese for him. At the end of the previous season he was on the floor – he had fallen out of favour with the management team and looked like a player who couldn’t wait to get away.

He was keen to go but McCall put an arm around him and got him believing. He has been the star player – he just offers so much.

Another big thing was getting Josh Cullen back on loan from West Ham.  Bradford had him for the second half of the 2015-16 season and a lot of people were surprised they managed to bring him back again.

He has barely put a foot wrong in central midfield. He makes the team tick and keeps the ball well.

James Meridith has been excellent at left-back. He was the only Bradford player in the League One Team of the Year.

But if pushed for one it has to be Marshall. Since Christmas he has  turned it on. He’s been the gamechanger.

Much has been made of Millwall’s experience of last season at Wembley, have Bradford got anyone who has experienced the national stadium much?

Bradford City’s Rory McArdle celebrates his goal

The man who will be marking Steve Morison – Rory McArdle. He has played at Wembley three times, twice in play-off finals and scored in both. He lost there with Rochdale and won it with Bradford in 2013.

Morison is a big, big threat. If you have to look at a battle which could decide the game it would be those two.

Prediction? 

Extra-time – nailed on. Then I think it is in the lap of the Gods. I seriously don’t know.

It’s a genuine 50-50 final. One goal and settled in extra-time. Anything but penalties!

Sports Editor | South London Press sports editor since 2007 who has covered huge sporting events for the paper – Crystal Palace’s Championship play-off final, two trips to Wembley in the FA Cup and David Haye’s world heavyweight unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko. Previously sub-edited on the Sunday Mirror, Daily Star and Sport First. Former ClubCall deputy editor.

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Bradford City breakdown – the lowdown on Millwall’s League One play-off final...