Getting them there has been a test of patience at a club where high expectations have been actively encouraged this season but the realities have perhaps been tougher than some might have imagined. Fortunately experienced manager Derek Adams is nothing if not a realist.
Whilst he has been determined to take things steady, nobody’s patience has been tested more than the players themselves.
That club captain Canavan was on media duty ahead of tomorrow’s League Two trip to Swindon Town was perhaps a clue that his purgatory is about to come to an end after being an unused substitute in the last two matches but he insists he knows no more than anyone else about whether he will lead the team out at the County Ground. He just wants this miserable period to come to an end.
“It has been tough, I can’t lie,” he says of a hamstring injury which has kept him out of the side for eight matches, powerless to address a run of form which has seen his side win just once in 11 games overall.
“I’m just looking to get back on the pitch as soon as possible. I’m just waiting on being selected.
“Nobody likes being injured, that’s the hardest part of the game for I would say everyone because you seem to do more work when you’re injured.
“It’s a really tough time for everyone because you have no real place to vent or escape so you just have to get your head down.
“It (the team’s form) does make it hard. You do feel a little bit out of the loop. You’re not privy to everything that goes on in the game and the build-up and when things haven’t been so rosy lately it does make it difficult.”
Having the 30-year-old central defender back in contention is a confidence boost for the whole squad according to Adams and importantly for him it raises the competition for places.
“Having the captain of the club coming back is a boost,” acknowledges the manager, whose team are 12th in League Two after 13 matches but as he was keen to point out, only five points behind third-placed Swindon.
“Just having Niall back in the 18-man squad is really good for us. He’s left-sided and he’s vastly experienced.
“When you’re out injured it’s extremely difficult as a player but as an experienced player you’re in and around the training ground all the time and you’re still able to lead when you’re out of the side.”
During Canavan’s lay-off Yann Sanogo’o has formed an effective partnership with Paudie O’Connor, which perhaps explains why the captain has been unable to come straight back into the side.
“He’s got competition because Paudie O’Connor and Yann Songo’o have done ever so well, (Fiacre) Kelleher’s come in, we’ve got a good choice of centre-halves at this moment in time,” reflected Adams.
With reserve goalkeeper Sam Hornby and defender Liam Ridehalgh still missing, Bradford’s injury problems are not over but it is at the other end of the pitch where a lack of options has been most keenly felt.
Forward Abo Eisa is yet to make his debut and fellow summer signing Lee Angol has been unable to add to his three league outings since tearing his hamstring against Stevenage in August, the game after scoring his first two goals for the Bantams.
But at least former Sheffield United, Wednesday and Rotherham United striker Lavery is on his way back. The 28-year-old made his return from the bench against Hartlepool United on Tuesday after missing the last five matches, but having joined the club without a proper pre-season, all six of his appearances thus far have come that way.
Like all injured players, Lavery will have been desperate to get back onto the field as soon as possible, but Adams has been careful to nurse him back to full health.
“Lavery and Canavan have been training for a good period of time and that’s allowed them to get back into the fray of things and they look good, they look able to push for the starting line-up,” says the Scot.
“It’s important when players do come back into training that we don’t put them back in too early. We’ve looked at how they’ve trained and the intensity they’ve trained at and they’ve been able to come through that.
“That’s just how you have to be as a manager. You’ve got to judge your players and the area where they’ve had the injury.”
The message about patience extends to results from by far the best-supported club in the division, which is expected to get out of it come the end of the season.
“To be five points off the automatic promotion places tells us something,” stresses Adams. “We all hear about how well teams have started and rightly so but it’s an extremely tight league and we only had to have two games swing in our favour and we would have been in a much better position.
“We should be – Walsall, Bristol Rovers, that’s four (more) points we really should have had.”