Changing teams – AFC Bournemouth vs Bradford City preview

This game has been called off because of a frozen pitch.

A pitch inspection at 12:00 today will tell Stuart McCall, Bradford City’s players and the supporters if a trip to AFC Bournemouth will be needed this weekend and while weather on the South Coast is questionable City’s desire to put right the only home defeat of the season is not.

The Bantams were bested by Darren Anderton’s inspired display for the Cherries as they had new manager Jimmy Quinn installed. Since that day both Quinn and Anderton have left the club and with them seems to have gone the form that saw them win 3-1 that day. They have suffered three defeats in the last three games and previous to that were knocked out of the FA Cup by Blyth Spartans. Struggling with a deduction it is hard to see where the points will come from to keep them in the Football League.

All of which is demoralising and something that – when the game is played – City will hope ot take advantage of. The Bantams are looking more in race trim of late but with a 4-0 and three no score draws in the last four are obviously struggling to find the net. News that Peter Thorne is back in training is heartening as is the word that Joe Colbeck will play a reserve friendly game next week. Thorne’s finishing is always welcome but the added thrust from the flank that Colbeck added in games like the 4-1 defeat of Exeter has been missed and should the trip South be called off then Colbeck’s presence in the rearranged game could be significant. Certainly the team are more dangerous with the young winger in than with Steve Jones whom McCall is said to be signing from Burnley once his loan deal expires.

Thorne is not expected to return to the starting eleven – the hard pitch and a bad back being a poor combination – leaving Barry Conlon and Michael Boulding up front. Omar Daley and Steve Jones take the flanks alongside Paul McLaren and Nicky Law Jnr with Dean Furman cooling his heels. One must feel sorry for the impressive Furman who has much to suggest him for a place in the side however the form of McLaren and especially Law is such that McCall has to stick with them.

Also impressive in the run of four games without conceding is Matthew Clarke who continues to be underrated as a presence in the City side and has given the Bantams a commanding edge. Also underrated is Graeme Lee’s organsational abilities which while never getting to the level of the Master – Noel Blake – are certainly better than the majority of defenders who have worn claret and amber including the man who preceded him as skipper and central defender David Wetherall. Paul Arnison is rated by fewer than he should be put clean sheet for defensive players should be impressive and he will look forward to the return of Colbeck and renewing the combination they had developed. Luke O’Brien has come on a million miles from the day he was skinned by Gareth Grant at Farsley Celtic and is being talked about as a player of the season.

No one’s player of the season is Rhys Evans but in the last month the goalkeeper has found his bit shouting voice – something Gary Walsh had over Matt Clarke and the reason the former was a better keeper than the latter – and the defence looks all the better for it.

The have-nots travel to the now-haves – Bradford City vs Bournemouth – League Two Preview 2008/2009

29 points separate leaders Bradford City and second-bottom Bournemouth going into this one; though no one, least of all those who chose to boo the team off at half time last week, should be fooled by the deceptive nature of League Two.

The Cherries are one of three teams who began the season on minus points due to financial difficulties, with the early indications already suggesting this year’s relegation battle will have ultimately been decided before a ball was kicked. A good start was clearly vital and, while one of the three, Rotherham (deducted 17 points), would now be occupying a play off spot had they started on zero, for Bournemouth (17) and Luton (30) the prospects are already looking grim.

The away fans dedicated enough to make the 540-mile round trip will arrive at Valley Parade having yet to celebrate a league victory this season and could be forgiven for feeling a touch bitter. Were it not for a ten point deduction last season they’d have finished mid-table in League One, now they’re facing up to non-league. It’s difficult to argue with the logic clubs who spend beyond their means should be punished, but the loss in revenue Bournemouth can expect should they go down is hardly going to help matters. Are Boston and Halifax uncomfortably closer than they’d like to imagine?

Such financial problems are thankfully a thing of the past for the Bantams, though the resultant lessons should not be forgotten. This week Mark Lawn has talked about promoting the Bradford City brand in America but behind those headlines were some interesting, if unsurprising comments. The Rhodes family and Lawn pushed the boat out during the summer and this will result in the club losing “a fair amount of money” this season, which they will cover. More investment is welcomed and Lawn has made it clear that this summer’s considerable transfer activity is unlikely to be repeated.

All of which means the club has taken a gamble of sorts on gaining promotion this season and, while the risk of it causing financial headaches later is faint, the plight of clubs like Bournemouth should remind us supporters that relative high levels of spending should not be demanded if things don’t go to plan.

The early indications are that the summer transfer activity has left manager Stuart McCall with a squad capable of matching the club’s ambition. He’s likely to name an unchanged team for the sixth consecutive league game and the benefits of building familiarity are evident. Rhys Evans keeps goal behind a back four which failed to convince last week but has earned three clean sheets from six. Paul Arnison still has something to prove but the form of Graeme Lee, Matt Clarke and Paul Heckingbottom has been pleasing, so far.

In midfield Lee Bullock and Paul McLaren are developing a decent understanding, with the latter playing a deeper role to enable the former to get forward more. Omar Daley and Joe Colbeck took most of the plaudits last week and will consider the muted response to their efforts from those supporters who’ve spent the last couple of seasons yelling abuse at them a victory of sorts.

Up front Peter Thorne continues to suffer from minor injuries but continues to find the back of the net, while Michael Boulding’s brace last week will help him to settle. There have been minor questions raised by some over the former Mansfield man’s start with City, but he’s looking sharper with each game under his belt.

Boulding will do well to match Stuart’s opposite number’s enviable goal record. Former Bantams striker Jimmy Quinn has sat in the away dug out at Valley Parade before – a 3-0 defeat for Swindon during our promotion campaign 10 years ago – and will have similar limited ambition for his current team this season. No Cherries player has managed more than one goal so far this campaign but, in Lee Bradbury and Darren Anderton, they have players of some pedigree. Striker Brett Pitman is also one to watch.

A home win is expected of course but, as Exeter threatened to prove last week, assumptions can be dangerous. City have pushed the boat out this season and the early signs are promising, but many battles lie ahead. As Stuart has stated, it’s how you finish which counts and it should be remembered how challenging it will be to realise our ambitions next May.

Only four teams will be promoted from League Two this season, even if only 21 began it standing any chance.