Parkinson refusing to let Wembley date distract Bantams from promotion tilt

FOR all the pride felt last night at Bradford City rubbing shoulders with some of the game’s biggest names in the draw for the FA Cup semi-finals, Phil Parkinson insists the focus is very much on earning a return to the League One play-off places.

Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson

The Bantams, who travel to Coventry City tonight, have been handed a potential Wembley showdown with Arsenal in the last four.

City must negotiate next Monday’s replay at Reading to ink that trip to the national stadium into the schedule but before then the Yorkshire club have two important league assignments.

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First, Parkinson takes his men to Coventry City tonight before turning his attention to Notts County at Meadow Lane on Saturday.

Both games could have a big say in whether Bradford can end what has already been a remarkable season by going on to clinch a place in the top six.

Parkinson said: “We all watched the draw (last night), of course we did. It is a fact that we were in the semi-final draw for the first time since 1911.

“Bradford City were mentioned with the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa. That is an incredible achievement.

“But this week our focus is on the league. Coventry is our game in hand. The league is so tight and if we win we go back into the top six. That is a huge incentive.”

From a Bradford perspective, the weekend results in League One were a mixed bag as they fought out a goalless draw with Reading at Valley Parade.

Peterborough United and Barnsley both won to leapfrog the Bantams but Sheffield United lost at home and Doncaster Rovers were held to a 1-1 draw at Gillingham.

The upshot is a league table so concertinaed that just two points separate Paul Dickov’s Rovers in sixth from Fleetwood in 12th. Nigel Clough’s Blades sit just three points clear of South Yorkshire rivals, Doncaster.

Parkinson added: “I looked at the results over the weekend. Sheffield United got beat again and, for me, that was a massive result as it pulled them back into the pack.

“For me, it was a bigger result than the teams below us who won to go over us. We have to finish above those teams anyway.

“In this mini-league that is developing, Sheffield United losing two home games in a week was a huge result and no-one will have expected that.

“All of a sudden, there could be two places up for grabs. This is our game in hand and the focus has to be on that.

“Of course, we will mention the importance of this game and how we can’t be distracted by the Cup. But these players all want to do well in the league. They all want success.

“If we had got through on Saturday against Reading, obviously the semi-final would be quite a way away. Equally, if we had gone out, we could have said, ‘Lads, let’s have this big push in the league’.

“But, instead, we are caught in the middle ground and have to deal with it. We have enough lads in that dressing room who are focused and determined to keep us moving up the league.”

City are scouring the loan market for a new goalkeeper after the surprise recall of Jordan Pickford by Sunderland.

Having celebrated his 21st birthday over the weekend, the goalkeeper’s stay had to switch from a youth loan to an emergency one. However, with that not including a 28-day recall, the Black Cats have opted to call Pickford back.