Bradford v Bolton: Parky returns


Will Parky be victorious on his return to Valley Parade?

As Phil Parkinson steps foot in Valley Parade for the first time since leaving last summer, both he and his Bradford City successor, Stuart McCall, face key periods in their respective seasons.

Parky’s Bolton side are in a race for automatic promotion and may take heart from Scunthorpe showing vulnerability for the first time. The Trotters had been on a bad run themselves during which they sacrificed three leads to take away just one point off Swindon, MK Dons and Charlton, having had a man advantage against the latter.

Centre-backs Mark Beevers and David Wheater had kept eight clean sheets in 10 in the run up to Christmas, then went eight games without keeping one. That run prompted Parkinson to change the system to 3-5-2 and subsequently, back-to-back victories have improved their position.

Jay Spearing’s set piece deliveries proved crucial in the 4-1 win over Walsall, which saw them score a couple of excellent goals including one from debutant Chris Long. Even if the attacking side of their display against Rochdale left more to be desired, they are now firmly in the top two picture thanks to a 1-0 win.

Bradford had often won 1-0 during Parky’s reign and indeed, at the beginning of McCall’s. Earlier in the season, they missed a lot of chances yet stayed in the automatic promotion race. Profligacy in front of goal was balanced out by good starts for centre-backs Nat Knight-Percival and Romain Vincelot, as the Bantams won games by slim margins.

However, form has slowly declined and six points from their last six games have diminished any lingering automatic promotion hopes. Now, they are still missing chances but defenders are losing focus more often and the team is without a clean sheet in six. They remain in the top six, a position many fans would have deemed satisfactory in July. However, many need convincing that their early-season form can be rediscovered for the club to continue the progress made under McCall’s predecessor.

The acrimonious nature of his Bradford exit means Parkinson, once a revered figure at Valley Parade, might not get the reception his tenure deserves – or at least, not from the home terraces.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 0-1