FIFTY points is traditionally regarded as the safety mark in League One so Bradford City potentially stand just one draw away from ensuring their first year back at this level will end satisfactorily.
Manager Phil Parkinson, however, is refusing to take anything for granted, even though over the last decade only two teams have reached their half century and not survived.
“We still have work to do and that is why we are only focusing on one game at a time,” said the Bantams’ boss ahead of tomorrow’s home game with Oldham Athletic.
“Hopefully by Saturday evening we will have increased the gap between ourselves and the bottom four but, as we stand right now, there is still work to do.
“Teams down the bottom will improve and get results you don’t expect. That happens every year. If we, for any minute, believe our job is done then we will be in for a big shock. The lads know that.”
The manager’s thinking will surely chime with Bradford’s fans. City spent six long years in League Two before escaping last May and no one at Valley Parade wants to go back.
After an excellent week on the road that yielded four points from trips to third-placed Leyton Orient and Coventry City, the Bantams, who sit 12th with 49 points, have a fine chance to smash through that 50-point barrier at home to the Latics tomorrow.
It is an opportunity that Parkinson is determined not to spurn. He said: “We have to look forward to getting back on our home patch after two good results on the road.
“We know Oldham are going to come 4-5-1 against us and I don’t think it is going to be a game of loads of chances.
“You look at some teams before we play them and know it is going to be an open game.
“But this is going to be different.
“It will be tight and both ourselves and the supporters will have to be patient.
“Oldham quickly get men behind the ball – they did it at Orient and did it well and were the same at home against Brentford.
“They have pretty much got the team and system in place.”
City have lost two and drawn one of their last three home games. The performance against Walsall 10 days ago upset Parkinson, who admits the lethargic efforts of his players in that 2-0 defeat came as a massive letdown.
He said: “Even when we haven’t won, we have put in a performance full of commitment. But we didn’t (against Oldham) and we have to put that right.”
Parkinson primarily wants three points tomorrow to repay the City fans who had to endure the Walsall ‘no-show’. Equally, though, a victory will prove valuable in taking City to 52 points.
The last team to go down with close to that tally was Torquay United, who fell out of League One in 2005 with 51 points. Gillingham were also relegated five years later with 50 points, while the last three seasons have seen the team finishing 21st post totals of 47, 43 and 48 respectively.
Assuming safety is assured, last season’s League Cup finalists will then focus fully on their summer recruitment plans.
A host of Bradford players will be out of contract this summer, while the club’s scouts have been out and about assessing potential targets.
Parkinson is determined to improve on last summer when the club’s recruitment did not quite pan out as envisaged. Nothing concrete, however, will happen until City are safe.
He said: “We want to get mathematically safe before we start looking too far ahead. That determines everything.
“We are obviously getting close to that, but we are not there yet.
“We have got people working for us looking at a number of situations, which you have got to do. But my focus is purely on the next game.”
James Hanson is again struggling after missing the win at Leyton Orient and Tuesday’s goalless draw with Coventry City at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium.
This means Jon Stead, signed on loan just before last week’s transfer deadline, will again partner Aaron Mclean up front.
Adam Drury, meanwhile, could feature after straining his medial ligament at Brisbane Road and Parkinson has revealed that the Leeds United left-back is on the verge of extending his stay.
Parkinson added: “I like him. He is a good player and a solid character as well. I am pleased how he has fitted in. We have agreed with Leeds to extend his loan.
“As for James Hanson, it just shows the importance of getting Jon into the club from Huddersfield. We were looking very light in that department, which has to be considered the most important area of the pitch.”