Bristol Rovers v Bradford City Match Preview
By Simon Gray
Bristol Rovers look to continue their impressive home form this weekend when fifth place Bradford City visit the Memorial Stadium.
Rovers have now won their last five home games on the bounce, scoring 16 goals and only conceding three in that run.
The month of February will provide a stern test for the Gas though; they face four of the top six in their remaining five games this month including the top two at home.
Assistant boss Marcus Stewart has called for patience amongst both the team and the supporters and believes that their game plan will have to be spot on.
“It is a good week for us with Sheffield United coming up quickly on Tuesday,” Stewart told the Bristol Post.
“It will be a good test for the players because where these clubs have been is where we want to go.
“We will have to be really patient as both a football team and a group of supporters over these next two games.
“Bradford and Sheffield United are both playing very well and their league positions tell you that their managers are both very good from a tactical point of view.”
Bradford go into the game having lost just one of their six league games this year but boss Stuart McCall has insisted that the race for the play offs is still well and truly on for as many as 14 teams.
“You look at Oxford who are 13th and Charlton who are making noises about making the play-offs, you wouldn’t rule them out,” McCall told the Telegraph and Argus.
“At the start of the season, I could see 12-14 teams being involved. We’re in February now and that hasn’t changed.
“We know we’re a match for anybody on our day. But I’m sure there are other managers who have got that self-belief in their group because there are a lot of squads with similar ability.
“I always keep my ear to the ground with other clubs and I know Bristol Rovers have that desire to be in the top six.
Rovers play in front of their fans for the first time since Matty Taylor left for city rivals Bristol City but McCall has admitted that his departure may not have rung too many alarm bells amongst the Rovers coaching staff.
“Naturally it might be loss for them but I don’t think Taylor had scored too many recently.
“They won a game 5-0 against Northampton last month when Ellis Harrison got four and Taylor didn’t score.
“You will miss a striker like that but one goes out and it gives an opportunity for someone else.”
Rovers will have new signing Bob Harris available; the left back scored in a reserve win over Peterborough earlier this week and provides competition for Lee Brown.
Going into the game, Rovers have no new injury worries meaning manager Darrell Clarke could opt for the same starting XI that played in the 0-0 draw with Rochdale.
Bradford head into the match without January signing Alex Jones who is still recovering from a hip injury but have a fellow January signing Charlie Wyke available once again after he scored in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Gillingham.
Nathaniel Knight-Percival could be available for the fixture, he returned to training this week after three weeks out.
Rovers’ Peterborough loanee Luke James spent a period of last season on loan at Bradford but had his loan spell cut short after not being able to get a significant run of games.
The fixture earlier this season ended in a 1-1 draw between these two sides with Charlie Colkett equalising late on for Rovers after James Meredith put Bradford in front.
The last time these two sides met at the Memorial Stadium ended in an eventful 3-3 draw in November 2012. Bradford have never beaten Rovers away from home.