Bradford City boss Phil Parkinson insisted his players will treat today’s crunch match with Plymouth Argyle like any other, despite the possibility the Bantams could end the afternoon in the relegation zone.
He expressed some sympathy for Plymouth’s plight, but promised them an “uncomfortable” afternoon at Valley Parade as his side aim to bounce back from their midweek exit in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Crisis club Argyle have spent most of the season rock-bottom of League Two, but can draw level on points with Bradford with a win.
The Pilgrims exited a seven-month administration following a takeover by businessman James Brent in October, with the new owner this week promising funds for players in January.
And there were signs their on-field fortunes were starting to pick up a fortnight ago, as Northampton Town were beaten 4-1 at Home Park.
Determined to stop Plymouth gaining any momentum in the relegation dogfight, Parkinson said his team will play with a high tempo from the first whistle and urged the Valley Parade faithful to create “an intimidating atmosphere.”
The City manager said: “It’s one of those – do we have to build this game up for the lads? No.
“Everyone knows this league game is important but the next league game is also the most important.
“They all realise that the next league game has another three points at stake and they need to concentrate on all we need to do to get a result.
“We look at the next FA Cup game coming up (away to Watford) and we can look forward to that, but we need to go into that game in a better league position. I’m just looking at this Saturday and getting a result this week.
“I’ve said it all along, the supporters react to effort and commitment and if the players give them that, the supporters will be right behind them.
“We’ve got to make it as uncomfortable as possible for Plymouth on Saturday – the supporters need to make it as intimidating an atmosphere as possible.
“It’s our home patch and we’re going to be very difficult to play against on Saturday.”
City’s dreams of reaching Wembley in the Trophy ended with a 2-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic on Tuesday night, but Parkinson has told his players to take the positives from the game at Boundary Park.
“The lads worked incredibly hard against Oldham, the boys really put a shift in and they were brilliant,” he said.
“We were unlucky to concede the goal really and it changed the game.
“That’s the spirit, that’s the determination we’ve had in recent weeks and it’s got to continue.
“It’s my job to keep in the lads’ minds: ‘that’s what we’ve done well.’ If you do the basics well, you give yourself a chance of getting a result in football.”
Despite a flu virus floating around the dressing room, Parkinson hopes to have a full squad at his disposal, with Michael Flynn and Ricky Ravenhill available again.
Flynn sat out the midweek match at Oldham because of a one-match suspension, while Ravenhill missed the area semi-final because he was cup tied.
With Robbie Threlfall not quite match-fit following a thigh injury, Marcel Seip is likely to continue at left-back. Dutchman Seip played for Plymouth for five years before his move north.
Parkinson said he will not underestimate Plymouth, but believes that an attacking approach will deliver three points.
“They played Stourbridge (in the FA Cup) and made five changes after that for the next game and obviously they won that next game against Northampton, so you expect a similar team to come up the road.
“We had our scout at that game and we know what they did well and we know where the weaknesses are.
“They came down a division and normally the teams coming down do well and that hasn’t quite happened. We’ll respect Plymouth but we need to maintain our level of performance.
“Obviously, we’ll be aiming to have a good start in the game and put the away team on the back foot.
“Of course, Plymouth had a good result last time but they are down the bottom and there is a fundamental reason for that.
“If we play like we did against Wimbledon when we scored two early goals – that sustained level of attack, knocking every attack back in when it came out.
“We picked up the ball, went wide again and put quality deliveries in the box. That’s what we’ll look to do.”
Plymouth player-manager Carl Fletcher is likely to stick to the same starting XI that comprehensively beat Northampton last time out.
Full-back Paul Bignot, who is on loan from Blackpool, is the only absentee as he serves the second game of a suspension.