League One Gameweek 24: Bradford To Stun Stadium Of Light?6 min read
The last time Bradford City played Sunderland in February 2015, they bridged a two-division gap to win 2-0 and secure a place in the FA Cup Quarter-Finals.
We reckon the Bantams can shock the Wearsiders once again – here’s why.
Sunderland flattering to deceive
It has not exactly been a bad first half of the campaign for Sunderland.
After successive bottom-placed finishes, it is perhaps understandable that fans are simply happy to watch a team that is competing at the top end of a division – and even just see 11 players showing pride in the shirt.
Changing the culture and mentality of the club was a significant challenge for those at the top; since taking charge in the summer, owners Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven, along with manager Jack Ross, have done that.
And yet, there is also room for improvement in terms of performances.
Sunderland have taken on average just 7.11 shots in the box per game – the sixth-fewest in League One.
Part of the reason they are second top scorers with 42 goals in 21 games is because of the quality of their shots from outside the box.
Aiden McGeady, who has played at a very high level with Spartak Moscow, Celtic and Everton, can unleash a belter of a shot, evidenced by the fact he has scored six goals.
Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch also offer accuracy from deep while Josh Maja is the division’s joint-second top scorer with 12 goals.
Maja, although supremely talented, does not possess the physical qualities of target man Charlie Wyke, who is unlikely to be fit enough to face his old club; Sunderland therefore sometimes struggle to occupy centre-backs in the penalty are.
For that reason, the Black Cats are relying – perhaps too heavily – on their ability to score from less than favourable positions.
🏟 | But don't worry, those without a ticket can pay on the gate…
— Bradford City AFC (@officialbantams) December 20, 2018
The green shoots of recovery are in place at Bradford City.
Controversial owner Edin Rahic has left Valley Parade with Julian Rhodes, a popular figure for his connections to the club, joining the board in a consultancy role.
Last month’s community event in support of Stephen Darby gave players and supporters a chance to interact which, although not the most important issue in the wider scheme of things, might have had a therapeutic and potentially galvanizing impact.
Since then, the Bantams have accrued 11 points from seven games, with the only defeats coming against top two opposition in Portsmouth and Luton.
In that sequence, they have beaten Oxford, Walsall and most recently Scunthorpe 2-0, 4-0 and 2-0 respectively; a dominant second half display against the Saddlers being particularly eye-catching.
David Ball is starting to find the kind of form that made him such a threat in Fleetwood’s 2016-17 play-off campaign.
Eoin Doyle’s return to fitness has boosted the team; the striker is starting to form a good partnership with George Miller, who showed flashes of his ability at Bury last season.
Jack Payne, who has thrived at this level with Southend, Oxford and Blackburn, is benefiting from playing in a team that now has more of the ball in the opposing half, enabling him to show his creativity in a more prominent sense.
David Hopkin deserves some credit, because he inherited a squad that contained a lot of cheap, young players, many of whom had been brought in from Germany and had not been of the required standard.
Equally though, the club were right to abandon their failed recruitment policy and give him the financial support to bring in experienced, battle-hardened professionals like Paul Caddis and Jim O’Brien.
Because both players have been influential figures at Championship level, they have strong character and leadership skills which helps lift the standards in training, which is reflected in performances on match-days.
Any sort of result at the Stadium of Light would hammer home the message that the Bantams are back.
Double Chance: Bradford win or draw at