The Thursday Preview: Crawley Vs Bradford
Blow me down with a feather, Crawley have lost five in six. Tipped widely to succeed for a second consecutive season, the Red Devils Mark II have been up against it in the last few weeks, their League Cup defeat at Palace preceding a woeful run that has witnessed pointless games against Cheltenham, Morecambe and Swindon.
Having started so strongly, this whiffy patch must have come as a shock to Town supporters, drunk on their team’s nonchalant superiority in recent times. It’ll probably be a temporary blip, mind; as Steve Evans has been so loathe to point out in his latest post-match pieces, “we’re decimated with injuries, although we won’t use that as an excuse”. Then why bother pointing it out, big guy?
Mocking aside, Sailor Jerry would have been proud of Crawley’s luck with injuries of late. Their back-line has been pretty much put out of action with captain Pablo Mills, Kyle McFadzean (he looks friendly), John Dempster and Dean Howell all on the sidelines for some reason or another. It’s not been going terribly well elsewhere, either, with Scott Davies and Jamie Day also unavailable, and new striker Wes Thomas, conqueror of all he purveyed last season, struggling to the point that he’s now departed for Bournemouth.
Steve Evans has been quick to act, bringing in a whole new roster of (no doubt legitimately signed) faces. At the back, the much-travelled Claude Davis has joined permanently, alongside loan signing and fellow defender Tom Eastman (no, I’d never heard of him either). Jon-Paul Pittman has come in to replace the sullied Thomas, while Andy Drury, who’s struggled with a three division leap since joining Ipswich from Luton in January, has arrived on loan.
With their injured players set to miss out yet again, there could be a few doubts at the Broadfield on Saturday. Likewise, visitors Bradford have been fairly active themselves, their latest recruit Craig Fagan sensationally joining the Bantams earlier today following his release from Hull. Fagan is one of a growing number that have turned up at the Valley since Phil Parkinson travelled up north for what he’ll hope will be a slightly more successful stay than his last venture Yorkshire-wards. Winger Kyel Reid, one of those players who has somehow never quite cut it higher up the chain, is also settling into new surroundings, and moves for Matt Duke and Jamie Devitt have been facilitated via the Hull connection.
Parkinson is yet to manage City to a victory, but things appear to be looking up. As Boy from Brazil blogger Michael Wood wrote a few days ago, “while most managerial changes in recent years have seen this club go backwards, the early signs are that we are still moving forwards.” Just two points have been gleaned from a possible nine, but the manner by which they were earned indicates a certain spirit about the place; two injury-time equalisers forcing draws against Morecambe and Bristol Rovers, decent outfits both. Parkinson’s third game, a 3-2 loss at Port Vale on Tuesday in which the Bantams suffered a late slip-up of their own, wasn’t so hot but there were positives; Michael Flynn and Ritchie Jones forming a partnership in the middle and Reid causing problems, big problems, on the flanks.
It’s still far too early to call, but Parkinson’s appointment does seem like a step in the right direction. One would hope for the Bantams’ sake that it proves as successful as that of another southern man in League 2, Andy Scott, and if City’s budget continues to provide for the kind of quality that Reid, Devitt and Fagan are capable of then a promotion bid certainly isn’t out of the question in what is yet again a remarkably open league. There may be lingering doubts about where the money’s coming from given the state that Bradford were in earlier this year but, to focus on the football, it must be the first time in quite a while that supporters are actually looking forward to seeing their team play. Crawley’s extensive injuries and a renewed sense of optimism at City give me the feeling that this one will end all square.