Coventry v Bradford City: Liddle is confident City can cope with backlog

FOR Gary Liddle, Bradford City’s push for success on two fronts is a new experience.

Bradford City's Gary Liddle (left) and Andrew Davies (right) celebrate after the FA Cup Fourth Round match at Stamford Bridge

Not that he has not been involved in a promotion challenge before, his very first as a teenager with Hartlepool United ended with them finishing as runners-up in League Two.

Nor is this season his first experience of taking on the big boys in knockout football, just last term the midfield player was part of the Notts County side that took Liverpool to extra-time at Anfield before bowing out of the Capital One Cup.

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City’s charge to the FA Cupquarter-finals does, however, represent the first time Liddle has had to balance the demands of knockout football and a league challenge into the Spring of a campaign.

“I’ve never been still involved in a Cup at this stage of a season,” said the 28-year-old ahead of tonight’s trip to Coventry City. “Usually, at this time of year I am solely focused on the league.

“I am definitely not complaining, though. This is exactly what I wanted to happen when I came in this summer. Every professional wants to enjoy days like Saturday’s quarter-final and be able to chase success.

“A backlog of fixtures only shows you are doing well as a club and that is great. We are pushing ourselves for the play-offs with the added bonus of the Cups.

“We want to do better than the club did last year and push for those play-offs. So far, so good.”

Bradford’s dual challenge for honours mirrors that of 2012-13, when an historic appearance in the League Cup final was followed by a return trip to Wembley in the League Two play-off final that yielded a 3-0 victory over Northampton and promotion.

During that season, City played a colossal 64 matches – a tally only Chelsea, Europa League winners that term, topped.

At the moment, Phil Parkinson’s side, even allowing for Monday’s replay against the Royals, will play a minimum 58 times, though that number could, of course, rise further if the Bantams battle through to Wembley in the Cup or qualify for the play-offs.

For a League One side, such a schedule brings its own challenges but Liddle insists that Bradford can cope. He said: “It is a balance between the league and Cups. But I feel we are getting used to it. This is a new experience for me, as I have not been in a Cup this late in the season.

“But, for the past month or two, we have been playing Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday. So we are used to it.

“We have a free midweek coming up on the 21st. It is in the diary already. That will be our first breather in a long while.

“The thing is, though, if you are winning then you don’t want the games to stop.

“Apart from the two results previous to Crawley, things had been going all right in the league before taking on Coventry. We still find ourselves on the cusp of the play-off places with the added bonus of the Cup. So far, so good.”

Tonight’s trip to the Ricoh provides an opportunity to jump four places to sixth in the table. It would leave Yorkshire filling all four places between fifth and eighth, and set up a potentially enthralling run-in for the White Rose county.

Where City differ from Sheffield United, Doncaster Rovers and a revitalised Barnsley, of course, is that there is the less than trifling matter of a possible Cup semi-final.

Liddle, whose previous best in the competition was a fourth round loss against West Ham United when a Hartlepool United player, recognises just how important next week’s trip to the Madejski is to the club.

Nevertheless, his focus is totally on the two league games – Bradford are at Notts County on Saturday – that have to be negotiated before thoughts can turn to taking on Reading.

“After the Cup game, I was straight on to following the league games,” admitted the player about a programme of league games that saw rivals Peterborough United, Barnsley, Port Vale and Fleetwood Town all collect three points.

“With how tight it is, we could have found ourselves in mid-table by 5pm on Saturday. We now have a couple of games in hand and we have to use them. The schedule is busy but the lads are doing all right and looking to do well in both competitions.

“For me, this run has been great. The biggest derby I had before this season was Hartlepool v Darlington so I thought Leeds (who Bradford beat in the League Cup second round) was great.

“But, since then, things have got even better. It has been an amazing season. I have loved every minute and feel very lucky to be part of this.”

Coventry, now managed by former Middlesbrough chief Tony Mowbray, sit just one place above the relegation zone.

Last six games: Coventry City LDDWLL, Bradford City WDLLWD.

Referee: G Sutton (Lincolnshire).

Last time: Coventry City 0 Bradford City 0; April 1, 2014; League One.