Fleetwood Town v Bradford City: Seaside return offers City chance to atone

Fleetwood Town manager Joey Barton after the Carabao Cup, second round match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire)
Fleetwood Town manager Joey Barton after the Carabao Cup, second round match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire)
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TODAY brings a meeting by the seaside of the two youngest managers in the Football League.

Michael Collins, at 32 three years younger than Fleetwood Town counterpart Joey Barton, heads west knowing the pressure is on following last weekend’s chastening defeat at home to Wycombe Wanderers.

A response is needed and Collins expects one. “We were not good enough on all levels,” he said about the performance against the Chairboys. “This weekend it is not about words, but actions. That is what we will be judged on.”

What the trip to Fleetwood to tackle Barton’s side does is bring into stark focus just how badly awry things have gone this year for the Bantams.

It was at Highbury that City kicked off 2018 with a win, second-half goals from Alex Gilliead and Shay McCartan capping a stirring fightback from Stuart McCall’s men.

Victory left Bradford sitting fifth in the table and strongly fancied to go on and earn a third successive crack at the play-offs.

It has been a good week and the players have responded very well. There has been an edge in training.

Michael Collins

The reality, however, was very different with City going on to lose the next six games and then their manager, as McCall paid the price for the slump with his job.

Little has gone right since with the Bantams returning to the Lancashire coast today on the back of a record that, if not arrested soon, is pointing only one way.

Just 21 points have been taken from 25 games since that win over Fleetwood and 18 goals scored.

Collins, it should be said, has been in charge for only five of those matches. And two of them have been won.

But, the manner of that display against Wycombe means Bradford cannot afford another flat showing on the Lancashire coast when tackling Barton’s Fleetwood.

“It has been a good week and the players have responded very well,” added Collins. “There has been an edge in training.

“This week has been a clean slate for everyone and that has made my job easier. The message was, ‘If you want to play, show me it in training’. It has been a real feisty week but now we have to do it on a Saturday.”