CLAIMING some derby kudos is unlikely to be at the forefront of the minds of rival managers Darren Ferguson and Simon Grayson this evening.
Both have bigger fish to fry in their respective League One missions between now and season’s end – with the fillip of a televised victory against a Yorkshire rival likely to be pretty inconsequential in the grander scheme of things for either man.
For Ferguson, a cherished three points would make the mathematics a lot more pleasing on the eye and help edge his Doncaster Rovers side closer towards the safety line in League One – and within four points of the magic 50-point mark, which is generally seen as the prerequisite for survival.
Grayson, by contrast, is seeking a catalyst to ignite City’s play-off push after a torrid 10-match winless sequence, mindful that the hard currency of victories must now arrive if their top-six challenge is to be kept alive.
Ferguson, whose side have won just once in their last 10 league outings, said: “For ourselves, we have just got to concentrate on getting the three points. If you are sat on 46 points and with 27 to play for, that would be an okay position to be in.
“We cannot be worrying about what is going on outside of us. The most important thing is getting the points and you have a rough idea of what you may need. I feel with 43 points and 30 to play for and six games at home, I am confident we can finish the season strongly.
“For Bradford, Wednesday was a big game because if they had won it, they would have been three points outside the play-offs and then all of a sudden, regardless of the run they have been on, there is hope for reaching the top six.
“That would be hardly anything to make up. But I still feel that Bradford do have a chance.”
The phrase annus horribilis may spring to mind in describing 2018 so far for Bradford, but Ferguson believes they have the perfect man at the helm to reignite their ailing promotion quest in Grayson – a serial expert at promotion at this level just in the same way that Steve Bruce is in the division above.
With a stand-out CV which contains four promotions from this level – with Leeds United, Huddersfield Town, Preston and Blackpool – Grayson’s vital statistics certainly measure up impressively, with City in good hands, according to Ferguson.
I think when there is a bit of an edge to a derby, it can be easier to get that atmosphere in the ground.Darren Ferguson
For his part, the Scot is minded to ensure that Grayson’s wait for a first win as Bradford manager remains on hold for that little bit longer this evening.
Emphatic that Grayson also has nothing like a point to prove after his sobering experiences at last club Sunderland, Ferguson, said: “In this league, he has got an outstanding record. I do not think he has got a point to prove in League One.
“He is a very experienced manager who has had success. The Sunderland job, as everyone has seen, is an extremely difficult job. Someone will get it right one day, but it is proving a very difficult job for anyone and you look at all the managers who have tried.
“He has gone to a club in Bradford which is a very good football club with a great fanbase and good people behind him. I do not think there would have been many other League One clubs he would have stepped into at the moment.”
Derby bragging rights may not be overly concerning Ferguson tonight, but he does admit that the sight of a well-populated away end and a bit of an edge to proceedings under the lights and in front of the TV cameras does provide some incentive to Rovers.
Some of Rovers’ best home moments this season have come in front of healthy away followings, with cup victories arriving against both Hull City and Scunthorpe United and it was only a last-gasp leveller from near-neighbours Rotherham United that denied them a famous win in mid-November, incidentally the club’s last televised fixture. Home wins in front of big followings against Grimsby and Mansfield in the League Two promotion campaign of last season will also be quickly recalled in the memory vaults of Rovers followers, with Ferguson hopeful that the extra atmosphere generated by a sizeable away support will do his players a favour this evening.
He added: “Sometimes, it is understandable that you get home games where, rather than the crowd getting you going, the players need to get them going.
“I think when there is a bit of an edge to a derby, it can be easier to get that atmosphere in the ground. I like that and preferred it as a player and I would imagine the players do as well.
“We have got six home games and have got to make sure we are very strong at home. We have got to try and get as many points as we can. We feel we can be strong at home. This is the area where we can pick up most of our points.”