Bradford City: New faces can help Bantams come up on the rails again

James Meredith

James Meredith

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James Meredith is backing Bradford City to emerge as the thoroughbred play-off ‘form horse’ from the pack in the race to reach the League One play-offs.

The going is good for the Bantams, who moved to within three points of sixth-placed Millwall after a keynote 2-0 victory over another promotion aspirant, Southend, on Tuesday, which had followed another important success over a rival top-six contender in Peterborough United.

Phil Parkinson’s side are emerging as an undoubted threat on the rails in the quest to make the end-of-season lottery, something that Australia-born Meredith – from a country whose inhabitants share a fascination with turf matters – is minded to appreciate.

The New South Wales man is also conscious of previous form, having been part of the Bantams side promoted from League Two after finishing in the final play-off place in 2012-13 on the back of a late-season express charge.

The current Bradford crop are also starting to build momentum following back-to-back league wins for the first time since November and Meredith sees no reason why that cannot be maintained as City seek to replicate their powerhouse final third of the season of three seasons ago.

With Tuesday being the first of a run of five matches out of seven at home and their next four outings being against sides in the bottom half of the table, the fixture list also has a benign-looking feel, with just one lengthy away trip left this season also representing a welcome factor, according to Meredith.

He said: “We are now over the Christmas period where the pitches are really bad and it’s tit for tat and it’s channel balls.

“This is where that horse comes around the pack and makes its way towards the front and I think we could be the team to do that – to go on a run.

“It was also mentioned in the changing rooms that we have got a lot more home games than away games and we have only got a couple of overnight trips and it makes it a bit easier in terms of conditioning.

“It is also good for the team with the way we have played in the last two games and the confidence has built.”

Having previously struggled to beat sides in the top half of the table this season, wins over Southend and Posh have also served as a confidence-booster for City, with the three points in each victory also possessing extra psychological weight.

Meredith is the first to acknowledge that impact that recent arrivals Wes Thomas and Josh Cullen have made in both victories, too, with their arrivals being timely ones.

He added: “Southend was a good win and we worked really hard and I think the team is really starting to come together. You can feel the team spirit among the players and the new additions of Josh and Wes, who are both good players who work hard, fit really well into the team.

“You can see it in training as well. Wes can play football, is athletic and can run the channels and he has got a real mixture to his game.

“Josh, for someone so young, seems to have a bit more experience beyond his years and you don’t realise how much ground he covers and he is always there to cover. I’ve a lot of admiration for him.

“We have bounced back and are hoping to take it into the next couple of games with the same attitude and quality to hopefully build us up to a play-off position.”

Tuesday’s thoroughly professional victory over Southend, following on from an exhilarating performance at Peterborough, have exhibited two successful traits in equal measure which augur well in the challenges ahead in City’s last 15 matches.

Defensive resoluteness has been shown in both outings and while City’s attacking verve was more pronounced at Posh, it was also displayed in tracts in midweek with the likes of James Hanson and Kyel Reid both posing considerable problems.

City are undeniably in a good place ahead of games against a quartet of sides below them in Rochdale, Blackpool, Colchester and Bury, but Meredith insists complacency will not be an issue.

He said: “Because we are building quite a nice confidence, I don’t think we will take the games for granted. We’ll go into them with a good attitude and will work hard.

“We have just got to keep doing what we have been and keeping those clean sheets as we are starting to see goals coming now.

“I said earlier in the season that the goals would start to come and, hopefully, over the next run of games, we can continue it.

“It has taken a lot of pressure off us and the defence can just continue to do what they are good at. It’s good to see and with the two new additions, we are playing really good football as well.”

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