WITH a home tie against League Two opposition awaiting tonight’s winners in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern quarter-finals, manager Phil Parkinson admits the competition could be about to become “exciting” for Bradford City.
The Bantams host Barnsley tonight, a week on from the downpour that caused the fixture to be postponed after the Valley Parade pitch was left unplayable.
Since then, the draw for the regional last eight has been made and either Bradford or Barnsley will host York City on November 10.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in that,” said Parkinson when asked by The Yorkshire Post as to whether already knowing a prospective opponent can motivate a team.
“Last time we were in a cup competition knowing who we were going to get was against Millwall (in the FA Cup) when we knew the winners would go to Chelsea. Hopefully, we will play as well as we did against Millwall that night.
“Get through and it can become an exciting competition because there aren’t too many teams left in it.”
Barnsley, of course, will have plenty to say about that as they also eye a meeting with York, whom the Reds knocked out in last season’s Trophy.
Back-to-back losses against Doncaster Rovers and Crewe Alexandra have led to sections of the Oakwell faithful calling for a switch of tactics away from the lone frontman set-up that manager Lee Johnson has favoured for much of this season.
“I do really appreciate the frustrations that the fans have got at the moment,” said the Barnsley chief. “Make no mistake, I think myself and the players are the same.
“I think we might have to tweak our tactics and add a slightly different dynamic to our play because, in the last couple of games, we have dominated completely but failed to score from open play.
“Football is ever evolving and changing and you have to adapt. The fans are the most important people at the football club, that is for sure.
“I do think that, at certain times, we need to get the ball into the box a little bit earlier.
“The customer is always right and the customer is our fans. I am here and hopefully will be for a long time and I want it to be a team effort.
“It isn’t a sign of weakness by tweaking something or giving people what they want. It’s somewhere in between I think.”
Bradford will welcome back Rory McArdle, who returned early from international duty with Euro 2016 qualifiers Northern Ireland at the request of his manager to face Barnsley.
“We flew him back on Sunday,” said Parkinson. “We knew in the morning that he wasn’t going to be on the bench because they had players back from suspension.
“I rang up (Northern Ireland manager) Michael O’Neill and said I didn’t want to jeopardise his future selection but that we had a game on Tuesday. We wanted to get him back in training.
“To be included in that is great for him. It was a famous night in Northern Irish history and he was a part of it, you can never take that away from him.”
McArdle is expected to be the only change from the side that Parkinson had selected to face Barnsley a week ago before the heavens opened. That means a belated debut for Greg Leigh, who was last week left frustrated by not only the Reds’ game being called off but also the postponement of Saturday’s League One clash with Blackpool due to international calls.
First-choice left-back James Meredith is back from duty with Australia but Leigh is set to play.
Last six games: Bradford City WDDLLW, Barnsley LWDWLL.
Referee: T Kettle (Rutland).
Last time: Bradford City 1 Barnsley 0; April 25, 2015; League One.