The start to the campaign may have been far from what Bradford City would have hoped for but they are certainly showing signs of being ones to watch in the second half of the season.
Five straights wins in all competitions – including three in the league – has seen the Bantams recover from a run of just victories in nine Sky Bet League Two matches, with the arrival of manager Graham Alexander proving to be a catalyst in the change of fortunes.
LAST TIME OUT
Gillingham 0 Bradford City 2
Saturday, December 16, 2023. Sky Bet League Two
The line-up: Lewis, Tomkinson, Kelly, Platt, Halliday, Smallwood, Gilliead, Richards, Walker (Pattison 83), Cook (Osadebe 83), Smith (Oliver 64). Subs not used: Doyle, Stubbs, Odour, Derbyshire.
Graham Alexander joined in early November following the dismissal of Mark Hughes and himself having left MK Dons just three weeks earlier.
The 52-year-old has built a strong reputation in management in the lower leagues, having taken Fleetwood Town into League One in his first job as well as guiding Scunthorpe United into the play-offs for a place in the Championship.
Time at Salford City and Motherwell – who he took into the Europa Conference League – followed before a stint with Milton Keynes for the former Preston, Burnley, Luton and Scunthorpe full back, who made more than 800 appearances during his playing career.
THE KEY MEN
Goalkeeper – Harry Lewis
The 26-year-old joined the Bantams from Southampton in the summer of 2022. Lewis emerged through the ranks at hometown club Shrewsbury Town before his switch to St Mary’s in 2015 as an 18-year-old. He made three senior appearances for the Saints in the FA Cup before moving to Valley Parade. Lewis collected 20 clean sheets in all competitions last season for Bradford and he has eight to his name already this term.
Defender – Matthew Platt
Joining in the summer of 2022 from Barrow, the towering centre half was a mainstay for the Bantams last season as they reached the play-offs with 46 appearances. The 26-year-old emerged from Blackburn Rovers’ youth set-up before making a loan switch to Barrow permanent in 2020. He made 93 appearances in Cumbria and is already featured 70 times for the Bantams, scoring two goals.
Midfielder – Richard Smallwood
The experienced midfielder was another summer 2022 arrival, having departed Championship side Hull City. Progressing from the Academy at boyhood club Middlesbrough, Smallwood made 72 appearances at senior level before switching to Rotherham United, for whom he scored the winning penalty in the 2014 League One play-off final. The 32-year-old made more than 70 appearances for both Blackburn and Hull before skippering Bradford.
Striker – Tyler Smith
The striker is well-known to Grant McCann, who signed Smith on loan during his previous stint as Rovers manager before securing a permanent deal for him while Hull City boss. The pacy 25-year-old has scored nine goals in 28 appearances since joining the Bantams in the summer and is well on course for the best goalscoring season of his career. A graduate of the Sheffield United Academy, Smith also had loan spells with Barrow, Bristol Rovers and Swindon.
Bradford City joined the Football League in 1903 – before they had played a competitive game. The club had previously been Manningham Rugby Club, who played rugby league. City inherited a strong fanbase and an excellent ground in Valley Parade and also gained a place in the Second Division, with Football League executives determined to promote football in the rugby-dominated West Riding. Unfortunately, Rovers had to make way for them after finishing in the re-election zone in 1902/03.
The two clubs first met on Christmas Eve 1904 with City winning 4-1 at Valley Parade before beating Rovers 1-0 in April 1905 at the Intake Ground. In subsequent seasons, the clubs have met 76 times in the league - Rovers winning 24 times to City’s 31, although results have generally favoured the home team.
TURNED OUT FOR BOTH
A current member of the Rovers squad has appeared for both clubs recently. Caolan Lavery joined City from Walsall in August 2021 and made 20 appearances, scoring once. He left at the end of the 2021/22 season and joined National League Scunthorpe United. In January 2023 he signed for Rovers.
Contributors: John Coyle and Gavin Hepworth