Walsall v Bradford City: Bantams are warned not to look too far ahead

Bradford City's Billy Clarke.
Bradford City's Billy Clarke.
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THE visit of leaders Scunthorpe United to Valley Parade on Boxing Day has stood out on Bradford City’s fixture list ever since the two clubs emerged as genuine promotion contenders.

City’s second 20,000-plus crowd of the season is expected for what seems certain to be an intriguing contest as Stuart McCall’s men look to make an inroad into The Iron’s advantage at the top of League One.

Before that, though, a trip to Walsall awaits and the Bantams manager is adamant that last season’s other beaten play-off semi-finalists must have his side’s total focus today.

“Everyone loves Boxing Day games and it is great that we are at home in such an attractive fixture,” said the former Scotland international.

“There will be a big crowd, possibly our biggest of the season, for the visit of a team who have had a great season so far. But that is not our concern this weekend. Walsall have to be our total focus.

“They have not had the best of seasons but I saw Walsall win at Sheffield United recently and not many teams manage to do that.”

Billy Clarke is again missing for the Bantams with a calf injury that may yet rule the striker out of the festive programme, Bury being due at Valley Parade on New Year’s Eve before City head to Northampton Town on January 2.

The 29-year-old has six goals to his name, two more than James Hanson and Jordy Hiwula, to lead Bradford’s goal-scoring charts in the league and his absence has been sorely felt.

His last appearance was in the 4-0 hammering of Rochdale on November 13, since which the Bantams have netted just twice in five games.

Bradford have lost three of those matches to leave McCall’s men five points adrift of the Blades and seven adrift of Phil Parkinson’s Bolton Wanderers in the second automatic promotion place.

“We are creating the chances but the finishing touch has not been there,” said McCall.

“We have to change that and have been working hard in training on crossing and finishing. The hardest part of football is putting the ball in the net but we have to get back among the goals against Walsall.

“It won’t be easy. I saw them win at Sheffield United and it was a real plucky performance. Walsall really dug in with five at the back and made it hard for the home team.

“Their last two results haven’t been great but we will have to be at our best to get the points.”