Bradford City v Fleetwood Town: Play-off with Blades driving Davies to take City into top six

Bradford City's Steven Davies.
Bradford City's Steven Davies.
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LAST season, Steven Davies had his first taste of the play-offs.

The experience was one he is unlikely to forget, the Liverpudlian being part of the Sheffield United side that made unwanted history when bowing out against Swindon Town.

No less than 10 goals were shared between the two sides in a remarkable semi-final, second leg that ended with the Robins heading to Wembley courtesy of a 2-1 first leg victory at Bramall Lane.

Davies, on loan with the Blades from Blackpool for the final two months of the season, was as devastated as anyone in the United camp that night in Wiltshire. Despite that, the 28-year-old is desperate to once again be part of the play-offs come May with Bradford City.

“This is a division that is always tight,” said Davies ahead of today’s home game with Fleetwood Town, which could see the City debut of new loan striker Wes Thomas.

“I was in it last year for the second half of the season and realised how tough it is. Everyone can beat everyone else.

“The teams who have that extra bit of quality and strength in depth will be the six that get those places. From what I have seen, there is no reason why we can’t be one of them.”

Tuesday night’s home defeat to Barnsley was a blow to the Bantams’ hopes of emulating the Blades’ achievement of last season by claiming a play-off place. It left City five points adrift of the top six, albeit with either one or two games in hand on all the sides above them.

With Peterborough United, one of the sides Bradford are chasing, coming up next Saturday, Davies believes the time is ripe for a concerted push.

“We have had an indifferent first half of the season,” said the former Derby County striker. “We haven’t hit top form yet. We had bad injuries to key players but we are still there or thereabouts with games in hand.

“The next couple of weeks will be key. Personally, I see a couple of those sides above us dropping away. The games come thick and fast and you need a big squad.

“We have that big squad and we also have players coming back at the right time. Hopefully, we can be one of the six.”

For Davies, this season is a contrast to a year ago when the Blades were safely ensconced in the top six for months.

This time around, Bradford are having to make up ground on their rivals but the striker, who is still waiting to net his first goal for Phil Parkinson’s men, is adamant that the Valley Parade squad can at least emulate the feat of his old club by claiming a place in the top six.

“It wasn’t to be,” he added about the night the Blades and Swindon became the first two clubs to share a double figure goal tally in a play-off tie.

“But I look at the squad I was amongst last year and I look at this one, there isn’t that much difference.

“Even Sheffield United have struggled this year. They have started to turn a corner but we are pretty similar.”

Davies’s own season has been a stop-start affair due to a knee injury that kept the forward out for three months.

He added: “It was a long time to be out but you have to put the hard work in during the early stages to make sure you get the benefit later on.

“I have been back training for nearly two weeks, been involved in three games and am feeling good.

“It was frustrating because I finally felt to be getting there in terms of form. No matter what your position, you need a run of games to really contribute to the team.

“It took me a while to break into the team, for one reason or another.

“But, once I was in, just as I felt like my old self I got the injury. It is part of the game and I will work even harder this time to get back to full fitness.

“There is so much to play for and so much football to play. I have had injuries in the past worse than this one and been out longer. But I have come back.

“I knew I would be back in time to play 15-20 games at the end of the season. That was always the aim. This is the time when you need the squad and need to pick up points.

“You look at the squad we have got and there is no reason why we can’t get where we want to be.”

Thomas, 29, has joined on loan from Birmingham City for three months and will replace Jamie Proctor, who is ineligible today under the terms of his move from Fleetwood, in the Bradford squad.

Last six games: Bradford City LDWDDL, Fleetwood Town DLWDDD.

Referee: K Wright (Merseyside).

Last time: Bradford City 2 Fleetwood Town 2; March 21, 2015; League One.