Harrogate Town v Bradford City: Derby ‘feistiness’ can help Bantams, believes Elliot Watt

Emotions are running high at Bradford City, and a League Two derby at Harrogate Town will do nothing to change that, but bringing balance is what Elliot Watt is there for.

Terrace passions spilled over at Valley Parade during Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient and much as manager Derek Adams insists “I see this as a top-seven side, 100 per cent”, too many supporters are unconvinced by that and by him.

But Watt is taking encouragement from the way the Bantams refused to crumble when Darren Pratley put the Os ahead in midweek, their endurance rewarded when he found the net after 83 minutes.

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“I think a lot of teams and a lot of players would have gone under,” he argues. “It’s not nice to hear (chants against the manager and board), especially when we’re out there giving our all, but we understand the frustrations. It’s Bradford City, we shouldn’t be in the position we are, but that’s the position we find ourselves in so it’s about sticking together as a club, not just as a team. We need the fans to be with us for 90 minutes.

Bradford City's Elliot Watt (right). Picture: PA.

“I don’t think it’s just Bradford fans, it’s fans across the country, they want to see their team doing well. I’m a football fan myself and when I was younger when Preston weren’t doing so well I would voice my frustrations.”

Watt is relishing the “feistiness” a packed away end will bring to Wetherby Road but as with everything else in life, he looks for equilibrium.

“We played them twice last season and they beat us home and away but the fans are a massive factor this season and we know what our fans are like, quality and vocal,” he says. “They’ll get behind us and it’ll give us that extra bit of feistiness but we’ve got to play with our heads and not our emotions and make sure we’re fired up for it but composed.

“It’s massive in life – don’t get too high when things are going well and don’t get too low. That’s something I pride myself on.

“It’s easy to get disheartened when things are being said or things aren’t going well. That’s where strong individuals stand out from the crowd.

“It’s about blocking the noise and making sure we do our job because there’s a big 18 games left and a lot can be achieved in that time. As things start to get towards the end of the season it may get to be squeaky bum time for some of the teams above.”

Watt’s goal was only his second this season and whilst he would like more, the holding midfielder knows he has bigger responsibilities.

“I want to get more numbers – goals, assists – but there’s a bigger picture, it’s a team game,” he stresses.

“My role in the team is a lot more important in terms of making sure Yann (Sonogo’o) and Paudie (O’Connor, the centre-backs) aren’t two-v-two and offering support to screen them and stuff like that.

“We played the other night with Callum Cooke and Levi (Sutton) in (midfield) who are more forward-thinking so my role is to be the anchor.

“When the time’s right I’ll look to get up there and offer support but it’s about recognising game management and not just going in because I want a goal.

“I think discipline is one of my strengths – reading the game, being disciplined and doing my job for the team.

“The gaffer’s massive on when we’ve got possession trying to get me on it to find Callum Cooke, Levi, Matty Daly, Charles Vernam, Jamie Walker, whoever it might be playing in them pockets with throughballs.

“On the pitch you need to realise the game management and whether it’s the right thing to play through.

“I made a point of it when big Tom (Elliott) came on (on Tuesday) not to get obsessed with the long ball, just because Tom’s 7ft 5in let’s not go smashing everything to him and being direct. There’s more to Tom’s strengths than just aerially.

“We created some good opportunities by playing through them but also by going aerially to Tom, Andy (Cook) and Theo (Robinson).

“We’ve got to make the right decisions at the right time and that’s what separates the best from the not so good.”