SIX points currently separate Bradford City from the play-off places, but Billy Knott is adamant that the club’s season is still very much alive.
The Bantams had a mixed Easter, beating Doncaster Rovers 3-0 on Good Friday but then slumping to defeat by the same scoreline three days later at home to Preston North End.
With Chesterfield claiming a maximum six points from the holiday period to go with last week’s 1-0 win at Valley Parade, the initiative has very much swung the way of Paul Cook’s Spireites in the race to finish sixth.
However, Knott believes the race is far from over and that there are twists and turns still to come before the regular campaign ends on May 3.
“The season is alive,” said the Bantams midfielder. “We have six games to go and it is time for a big push. There are some big games, including Bristol City.
“Gillingham is first up this Saturday and we won’t be giving up.
“I can’t lie; we came in the dressing room after the match and saw Chesterfield had won. It was a bit disappointing.
“But they will have harder games to come than Crewe and we will have easier ones than Preston. We have to get the points. That is the bottom line, starting with Gillingham on Saturday.”
Bradford, of course, have proved several times this season that being underdogs is not something that fazes them.
The FA Cup run to the quarter-finals saw Chelsea and Sunderland of the Premier League beaten along with Championship side Millwall.
Monday’s defeat may have come as a bitter blow, especially with Christopher Routis being dismissed after just 14 minutes for a professional foul.
The Frenchman will now serve a one-game ban and with Gary MacKenzie also ruled out of Saturday’s trip to Kent with an ankle injury, City manager Phil Parkinson is down to the bare bones in terms of defenders.
Gary Liddle, pressed into action as a makeshift centre-half against Preston, is the most likely to partner Rory McArdle at the heart of the backline as the Yorkshire side go in search of a much-needed three points at Priestfield.
Knott believes the manner of Monday’s battling performance in defeat to North End should give Parkinson’s men plenty of confidence.
“Defeat was a tough one to take, especially considering how well we played and how hard we worked,” he said. “Preston are a very good passing team and that took its toll in the later stages.
“But I still thought we were quality and the crowd were brilliant with us. We were down in the dressing room and we will hurt for a few days. But we go again on Saturday at Gillingham.
“Preston are flying and have some great players. I have played against Daniel Johnson a couple of times in the past and he is different class. There are a few like that.
“We knew it would be hard but we did okay. When we went down to 10 men, the fans were brilliant and stuck with us.
“Preston are a good side and I think they will go up. Full credit to them. But we played some good football. If we’d had 11 men, it could have been a different story.
“Everyone knows we will give it 100 per cent and never give up. We’ll keep going and see where we can end up. Gillingham is a big game and we are looking forward to it.
“Six games to go and it is a big push.”
As for Routis, dismissed after mis-judging a clearing header by North End and getting the wrong side of Joe Garner before hauling the striker down, Knott is adamant his team-mate will return stronger for the experience.
He added: “Christopher got his chance at centre-half and he just got under the flight of the ball. As soon as he sees the defender head it, he has to adjust.
“It is just one of those things.
“Garner is clever and slowed things down a bit. Chris ran into the back of him and it was a sending off. But he will come back from this. He is a great player and has played in several positions for us this season.
“He was down in the dressing room. He felt like he had let the lads down. But he has been brilliant in games this season. Everyone makes mistakes. The lads got round him and picked him up.”
While Monday’s Roses loss was an unwelcome development in Bradford’s play-off quest, Barnsley – who visit Valley Parade on April 25 – have been left to reflect on a truly sobering Easter period.
Back-to-back defeats to Sheffield United and Colchester have left the Reds with it all to do to break into the top six, with head coach Lee Johnson picking up the pieces after the first setbacks of his tenure and critical of his side’s efforts against the U’s.
Johnson said: “We’ve given ourselves a lot to do now.
“My players should be very, very disappointed with themselves.
“There’s that soft underbelly at the minute and we have got to stamp that out. We will be signing players that haven’t got one.”