AHEAD of another potentially pivotal round of games for Yorkshire’s quartet of League One play-off challengers, Phil Parkinson believes Bradford City’s pride will ensure a season that has already seen the club stun British football does not fizzle out.
The Bantams host high-flying Preston North End today knowing that a top-six place is back in range.
After looking jaded in losing at home to Chesterfield last week, City looked to have handed the initiative to Paul Cook’s Spireites.
However, the Good Friday win at Doncaster Rovers means Parkinson’s City are just one place and three points adrift of Chesterfield in sixth but, crucially, with a game in hand.
It means another win today at home to high-flying Preston could bring a return to the play-off places – a notable achievement considering how the thrilling run to the FA Cup quarter-finals means City have played substantially more games than all their rivals bar Sheffield United.
Parkinson said: “We have too much pride to allow things to fizzle out, and an honesty. We want to keep going and give it everything we have got.
“The summer is a time for rest and looking back. Now, we focus on the next game. Against Doncaster, we showed signs that we have players who are ready to go again.
“We needed our big players to come to the fore and I thought that is what they did. James Hanson, Billy Clarke, players like that were magnificent.
“I wouldn’t say it was a one-off performance. But, if you go back over the season, in terms of away wins and what was at stake with Doncaster also needing to win, I do believe it was as good a performance as we have produced.”
Rovers’ own challenge suffered a serious setback with Friday’s loss. Paul Dickov’s men, who are not in action until tomorrow night at Sheffield United, will be desperate for not only Bradford to falter today but also Chesterfield at home to Crewe Alexandra and Barnsley at Colchester United.
Lee Johnson’s Reds saw their own play-off tilt suffer a blow on Saturday as the Blades triumphed 2-0 at Oakwell.
That brought to an end a nine-game unbeaten run for Barnsley and left Johnson’s men as one of four clubs locked on 56 points.
With four points separating his team in ninth from Chesterfield, the 33-year-old believes his side need four wins from the last six games to keep their promotion dream alive.
“I had to bite my tongue a little bit in the dressing room (after the Blades loss) to protect people to make sure we come back strong against Colchester,” said Johnson. “But there were a few home truths, and I won’t settle for that mediocrity. People have to make sure they use the hurt for the next game.
“If they do that, we will go and put in a good performance against Colchester. Or they can completely do the opposite and drop their heads.
“It will be interesting for me now to see who can come with us and who can’t.
“My job is about filtering out the ones that can and can’t do what we’re asking them to do.”
It is the first time Johnson has tasted defeat as Barnsley chief, but he insists all is not lost in the race for the top six.
“I think we need four wins and the fact we play Chesterfield and Bradford helps,” he added.
“We will struggle to catch Sheffield United now, but you never know in football and this team’s got it in them.
“We went four wins on the spin when I first came in, and six in total. So it is possible. And you can’t stop having that belief. Yes, we failed on Saturday, but football changes like the wind.
“We have to make sure we go to Colchester, lick our wounds but not forget, use that experience of failing to aid our long-term progression.”
Completing the play-off picture in the third tier, Rochdale host Port Vale as Peterborough welcome Walsall for what promises to be an intriguing Bank Holiday programme.
For Parkinson, however, all that matters is how his side prepare for the visit of Simon Grayson’s promotion chasers.
“Preston have incredible resources,” said the Bantams’ chief, whose side won 2-1 at Deepdale in November. “But we went there and played really well. All we can do is our best. If that is good enough to win, great.
“If not, then we have to be able to walk off the pitch and think, ‘We gave it everything, that was some performance’.
“It will be a great game. After the season we have had, to still be in contention is tremendous.”