Exeter City v Bradford City: Bantams willing to take the long road in order to reach FA Cup third round

DURING his successful time in charge at Plymouth Argyle, Bradford City manager Derek Adams enjoyed a fair number of long but satisfying trips back to Devon after rewarding away-day victories.

He will understandably be hoping to reflect on another productive result on the road on his latest lengthy return coach journey to his current club later tonight – this time when he leaves the south-west county and heads in the opposite direction.

There would be a certain amount of justice if he and Bradford do depart St James Park with a place in the second round of the Cup being assured – given the events of the past fortnight.

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The Bantams find themselves heading back to Exeter for a third time this season in under four months.

HELLO AGAIN: Exeter City's St James Park Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Two weeks ago, Exeter’s 3-0 ‘win’ after extra time in their first replay against Bradford was declared null and void after the Grecians broke competition rules by fielding a sixth substitute.

The fact that Bradford were reinstated in the competition was tempered by the knowledge that little consideration was seemingly given to the fact they are unwitting victims in this saga.

A fresh replay was ordered and Bradford now make another long and expensive trip to Exeter, who remain in the Cup despite a major breach of competition rules.

There was no right of appeal for Bantams; whose chief executive officer Ryan Sparks’s use of the word ‘embarrassing’ to describe the situation is very apt.

SIDELINED: Charles Vernam is one of four Bradford City forwards ruled out of tonight's FA Cup replay 'replay' at Exeter City. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Those 101 diehard Bradford fans who purchased a ticket for the first replay in Devon were able to apply to receive a complimentary one from the club prior to tonight’s rearranged game.

Should the Bantams get through tonight, expect visiting players to make a beeline for the away end to show their gratitude.

Adams commented: “The amount of money that it costs to travel down to Exeter has not been looked at from a supporters’ point of view (by the Football Association). They (Bradford supporters) have had to go to the first game and have not been recompensed for the second game.

“Yes, they are getting free tickets, but they have had a lot of money for fuel etcetera.

LONG ROAD AHEAD: Bradford City manager Derek Adams Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“But the supporters who were there on the last time were very vocal and helped us.”

Adams is firmly of the view that tonight’s replay should have been staged this coming weekend – when the second round of the competition takes place – at a neutral venue.

Instead, should they go through, they will visit Cambridge United in a second-round tie, which would represent their seventh away game out of eight in all competitions, if you factor in the annulled first replay at Exeter.

The City chief continued: “We are in a situation where we were playing the tie and did not break any rules in the game and unfortunately for us, the rules were broken. The referee, fourth official and two linesmen allowed the six substitutes to happen. We all agree with that.

“That changed the flow in the game on the night. We then have to go back to Exeter to play the replay. If we win on Tuesday and progress, we then have to go away to Cambridge on Saturday at such a short turnaround.

“I think that is unfair and unhelpful, but it is something we have to deal with.

“I think that the (Exeter) game should have been played on a Saturday when the second round of the FA Cup was taking place. I don’t think for both sides, Bradford and Exeter, to play the game on a Tuesday and then play in the FA Cup on a Saturday is particularly fair to any of us.

“If the game had been played at a neutral venue, we can (also) all see that as being a sensible option. To then ask us to go back to the original venue where it took place when we, as a football club, have not done anything wrong in the situation is a bit unfair.”

City head back to the West Country with selection issues and are down on numbers in attack, with Abo Eisa, Charles Vernam and Caolan Lavery joining Andy Cook on the sidelines.

Adams admits that the number of muscle injuries being sustained in his squad is a cause for concern for him – and it is an issue he has detected among the playing ranks before his time at the club as well. It is something he intends to get to the bottom of.

He added: “We have to sit down and go through it as there has been a history of these problems (at Bradford), not just now but before. What is the reason for them? How are they happening and how are they reoccurring?

“That is something we have to get to the bottom of very soon.

“It is nothing to do with the training I do, I know that for a fact.

“I have been over the course for many years with tried and tested ways that work. This is something that has never happened before (to me).”

Last six games: Exeter DWWWLD; Bradford DDDDLD.

Referee: C Breakspear (Surrey).

Last time: Exeter 0 Bradford 0; August 7, 2021; League Two.