WHEN the fixtures were released last summer, Bradford City’s Christmas promised an encounter with the league leaders and another side likely to be pushing for a play-off place.
That is, indeed, how things have panned out. Though not as might have been expected, with the leaders not being pre-season favourites Sheffield United, who Bradford travel to on Monday, but unfancied Burton Albion.
The Brewers, after winning promotion last term, were priced at 25-1 for the title before a ball was kicked, with no less than 11 teams available at shorter odds including the Blades as 9-2 favourites.
“I’d have to say Burton have been the surprise package of League One this year,” said Parkinson. “Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink did a tremendous job in putting together the team.
“Nigel (Clough) has now picked up the reins and we will be up against a team that has carried on where it left off last season. We went through something similar when we came up (in 2013), as we were flying in the first couple of months.
“The players were relishing every game as it came around and Burton look the same now. There has been a change, of course, with Nigel coming in and the players will be determined to prove there has been no disruption.
“But this is about us. Chesterfield was an important win because we’d had a couple of weeks without a league game and the points kept us in touch going into Christmas. We have to maintain our high standards. The fans can play a part, as together we have to make Valley Parade difficult for Burton. The atmosphere and how the players approach the game can see to that.”
Burton, who will have former Bantams goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin between the posts today, return to Valley Parade for the first time since a 2013 play-off semi-final first leg that left Bradford’s own promotion hopes in trouble.
A 3-1 win in the second leg, however, took City through 5-4 on aggregate to a Wembley final that was won with ease against Northampton Town.
Parkinson recalls: “We have had some good games against Burton down the years. Obviously, the play-offs stand out. We didn’t perform in the home leg and they were the better team.
“But we got that important goal from Thommo (Garry Thompson) near the end and then made amends down there in the second leg to reach Wembley. We learned from that when we played in the final.”