PHIL PARKINSON is adamant Bradford City can quickly bounce back from their Capital One Cup final drubbing to launch a late push for promotion.
The Bantams were soundly beaten by Swansea City yesterday as two goals apiece for Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman plus a strike from Michu clinched an emphatic win for the Swans at Wembley.
City, who had goalkeeper Matt Duke sent off just before the hour, had been bidding to become the first team in Europe to win a major domestic Cup from the fourth tier.
Now, however, the focus switches to the league with Bradford looking to make up lost ground after a disappointing run that has yielded just five points from their last eight games.
Parkinson said: “The lads were a bit down in the dressing room afterwards because they know we could have played better. We are a better team than we showed.
“But I said, ‘Lads, get your heads up as what you have achieved is outstanding. It has been disappointing, but Swansea are an outstanding team’.
“Now the focus returns to the league. We have 15 games left, which is a large chunk of the season.
“There are a few scenarios where a Cup run can have a detrimental effect on the league form.
“That can only be natural when you have a small squad.
“But we have a third of the season to go and I firmly believe we have a good enough squad to go on a good run and make a challenge.
“We are going to approach every game in a really positive frame of mind and see where it takes us.
“Come Wednesday night (when Dagenham & Redbridge visit Valley Parade), we will be ready.”
Bradford trail Exeter City, who occupy the final play-off place, by eight points, but have two games in hand on the Devon side.
If the Bantams, who sit 11th in the table with 44 points from 31 games, can reel in the sides above them, it will cap a tremendous season that has seen the Yorkshire club create history by becoming the first fourth tier team to reach a major Wembley final.
On yesterday’s defeat – which also saw Bradford go into the record books as the team suffering the heaviest losing margin in a League Cup final – Parkinson added: “For our supporters and everyone at the club, of course I would have loved to have made more of a game of it. But it was a tough afternoon.
“We conceded after 16 minutes against a very good side. If we could have got to half-time at 1-0 down then we could have changed things round. But we conceded again and that made things difficult.
“Of course, we could have done better. But I don’t want to be critical of anyone.
“The wage of just one of Swansea’s players probably covers our entire playing budget for the full season. That is the gulf we are dealing with here and I thought our lads were a credit to the club in how they have conducted themselves throughout the run to the final.”
Parkinson, who expects to sit down with the City board in the coming weeks to discuss a new contract to replace the deal that expires in the summer, felt Duke was harshly dealt with by referee Kevin Friend in the 56th-minute incident that led to the veteran goalkeeper being dismissed.
Duke tripped De Guzman as the midfielder prepared to tap the ball into an empty net, but the City manager felt the official could have been more lenient. He said: “I thought the referee could have used his common sense when making that decision. In the context of the game, we were 3-0 down against a Premier League team and with a penalty having been awarded against us.
“With the greatest respect, I don’t think we were going to win 5-4 at that stage so I think he could have used a bit of discretion and given Matt just a yellow card. That would have sufficed.”
The Bradford manager may have been unhappy with Duke’s dismissal, but he was also full of praise for not only the 35,000 fans who travelled down to the capital from West Yorkshire but also the Swansea players.
Parkinson added: “The highlight of the day for me was how the supporters stayed behind the team right to the end. They realise what an enormous achievement this has been. Of course, I would love to be able to talk about what a good game it had been. But Swansea did to us what they have done to a lot of Premier League teams. They are an outstanding team.
“We were out on the pitch for quite some time. The Swansea players clapped us down as we got the medals and I thought that was a touch of class from them.”
City’s disappointment at losing by five goals was in contrast to the joy felt by Swansea after the Welsh club lifted their first major trophy.
Manager Michael Laudrup said: “To lift the trophy is pleasing but I think the way we did it – 5-0 – was even more pleasing.
“I think Bradford didn’t have a shot until the 87th minute and they also only had two corners. That says a lot about our performance. We all know what Bradford have done against Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa. It has been absolutely outstanding.
“The final this year will remain in history. A small part is because of us and a large part is because of Bradford.”