WHEN former Bradford City goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer pulled ball number 10 out of the glass bowl that replaced the fabled ‘hat’ of FA Cup draw fame, signalling his old club would travel to Peterborough United in the second round providing the replay with Aldershot could be safely negotiated, deep sighs abounded in the Wool City.
Such a response was understandable.
Not only did it mean a potential extra meeting with Steve Evans, a manager Bantams fans love to hate, but the Posh’s lofty standing in League One, together with City’s ongoing struggles, meant chances of progress to the third round seemed slim to non-existent.
On Saturday, however, Bradford went to London Road in the league and claimed a point that, but for a controversial equaliser from the hosts, would have been all three. It also suggested those who had written off any hopes of still being in the Cup come January, even if Aldershot can be beaten tonight, may have been a tad hasty.
Not that David Hopkin is allowing himself to think that far ahead. His only focus is a tie that he admits will be “tough”.
“No-one here is looking any further than Aldershot,” said the Scot when asked by The Yorkshire Post if the weekend draw had offered hope of an extended run.
As the first game down there showed, it is going to be a tough game. They are a good side and I am sure playing at Valley Parade will inspire them.David Hopkin
“As the first game down there showed, it is going to be a tough game. They are a good side and I am sure playing at Valley Parade will inspire them. Players want to play at a ground like ours. Aldershot will also come here believing they have nothing to lose. But, we have prepared well and we know all about Aldershot from the first meeting (a 1-1 draw).”
Saturday’s battling draw and performance was much needed. The six straight league defeats that preceded the trip to Peterborough had left morale at rock bottom.
An SOS to former owner Julian Rhodes had been made to rebuild bridges between club and supporters that had collapsed amid the often chaotic events of 2018 that has seen four different head coaches take charge and owners Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp come in for plenty of flak.
Rhodes was behind the free coach travel that saw 750 fans head to Peterborough last weekend along with tickets for Saturday’s key league game with fifth-bottom Oxford United being slashed to £1.
Around 2,000 fans have taken advantage of the cut-price offer since tickets went on sale last Friday.
Victory tonight would represent another important step in the right direction for City, as Hopkin is the first to admit.
“There was so much to take out of Saturday,” said the Scot, who will be without Saturday debutant Paul Caddis due to the free agent having joined since the first tie took place at the Recreation Ground.
“Peterborough did have a lot of the ball and a lot of crosses came into our box but we stood tall as a team and, if we’re being honest about it, deserved to win.
“Their goal was offside and that was frustrating. But the big thing to take out of the weekend was the performance and how the lads stuck together.
“To me, that showed the players are buying into what we have been saying. There was a belief about the players.”
Last six games: Bradford City LLLDLD Aldershot Town WLDWDL.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).
Last time: Bradford City 2 Aldershot Town 0; November 18, 2015; FA Cup.