Bradford City raring to pull of an FA Cup shock after stop-start period, says Gary Bowyer

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Gary Bowyer says his Bradford City players are hungry for their FA Cup first-round replay with Shrewsbury Town, and with his injury list easing, he has more of them to choose from.

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Gary Bowyer says his players are hungry to face Shrewsbury Town

Gary Bowyer says his players are hungry to face Shrewsbury Town

The Bantams host the Shrews on Tuesday night, with the winners at home to Mansfield Town in round two.

Bowyer has had to wrestle with a huge number of injuries recently, but Jake Reeves made his first appearance since January 2018 in the EFL Trophy last week, captain James Vaughan will undergo a fitness test, and Shay McCartan and Matty Palmer may feature at Plymouth Argyle at the weekend.

Midfielder Reeves played 62 minutes against Rochdale last week, and Bowyer will weigh up how much involvement if any he should have on Tuesday.

“He's like a kid at Christmas,” said manager Bowyer. “He's bouncing around the place, absolutely buzzing. Everybody's delighted for him, he's such an infectious character. That's the biggest praise I can give him.

“He's done very well. He's surprised himself. I think he was expecting to be walking like C3PO on Wednesday and Thursday.

“He joined in with the group on Friday and Saturday so he's done ever so well. We've just got to go step by step and see how he is.

“Out of all of us I've probably got to be the most sensible, which is a rare trait for me. I've got to make the decision and take everything into consideration but the main thing for me is the welfare of the player. He tells me he's fine and ready to go but I didn't expect any different.

“He's got a chance of being involved. I have to take into account that each game he's played so far has been a step up and we've got to make sure the step up isn't too quick too soon.”
Bowyer may err on the side of caution with centre-forward Vaughan because League Two promotion is a higher priority than the FA Cup, but that does not mean he is prepared to write the Cup tie off, and as of Monday afternoon, no decision had been made.

McCartan and Palmer will not feature on Tuesday, but made important progress on Monday.

“Both Shay McCartan and Matty Palmer have trained today on the grass with a view to joining in hopefully at the end of the week, so that's really good news,” said Bowyer.

“For Shay it's a quicker turnaround but it's brilliant news for Matty Palmer. He's done everything he can to get back as quickly as he can. He's been really impressive with the discipline he's shown in his revamp.”

With a busy fixture list ahead, the pair could be thrown in at the deep end at some stage.

“In an ideal world you would like to put the ones who are coming back from injury into a behind-closed-doors friendly to make the assessment better but the fixture schedule coming up – and it could quite easily be added to – means we're not in a position to introduce them in those games,” said Bowyer. “Sometimes needs must.

“With the period we've now got coming, the more bodies we have available, the better it is.

“There's going to be some travelling involved and a number of games before Christmas.”

Joe Riley is out for the season with a knee injury, and Clayton Donaldson and Jamie Devitt are still missing, but the more positive bulletin has further lifted the mood.

Having only played three times since October 22, and only once in the league, Bowyer says his players are champing at the bit, and he is keen to have another look at how they shape up against League One opposition.

“Watching them this morning in training, they're ready for the game,” he declared. “They're really focussed. It's been a while since they've played, for many of them it was the Shrewsbury game away.

“Deep down both managers would have told you they didn't want a replay and both of us had a real good go at settling it there and then.

“We had chances and it will give the players confidence knowing they can create against a well-organised and good League One team. I like these games personally because I get to see who challenges themselves and says, 'That's where I want to be.'

“I don't think we learnt anything we didn't already know from the first game in terms of how they play. The way they play is very good, I like the way they pay a different system and it challenged us and caused us problems. We've tried to help the players in case those problems occur again on Tuesday.”