Peterborough v Bradford City: Why the Bantams need to overcome the Steve Evans jinx

EVER since the shameful night at Valley Parade that brought five red cards and a six-game touchline ban for Steve Evans, the Scot has become a figure Bradford City fans love to hate.

Jim O'Brien: Key player. Picture: Tony Johnson

Unfortunately for those same supporters, Peterborough United’s manager has also proved to be something of a nemesis for their team.

In seven meetings stretching back to the 2011-12 season – which included the infamous clash between the Bantams and Crawley Town that saw a brawl more akin to an old school rugby league encounter than football’s usual ‘handbags at ten paces’ followed by that flurry of dismissals – Evans has won six and drawn the other.

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Few would bet against that dominance continuing today when Bradford, sitting rock bottom of League One after winning just once since August, head to London Road to tackle third-placed Posh.

David Hopkin, however, believes his side’s hopes of upsetting the odds can be helped by a combination of City’s easing injury crisis and the club’s offer of free coach travel meaning there will be a decent away following present.

“We are getting players back and that is a big positive,” said the Bantams chief.

“Jim O’Brien’s return is a big boost for everyone. He did 25 minutes at Aldershot last weekend in the Cup, then 45 at Barnsley on Tuesday as we wanted to make sure he was okay.

“He has been out a long time so it is good to have him back. His experience is a big advantage, in the dressing room he is a leader. We need those sort of characters in a situation like this.

David Hopkin, Bradford City manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“The squad remains imbalanced, I think everyone knows that. It means we are asking players to play out of position at times.

“That is not ideal but it is where we are at the moment. We don’t have the squad that we should have. A lot of very good technical players but not the mix that I believe we need.

“For example, I have six central midfielders available but we still need wide players. The balance just isn’t there.

“That said, it is still fantastic to have the players back. Danny Devine coming through 90 minutes in midweek was a big thing. He is more of a utility player than most, and that is something we lack.

“He played at right-back against Barnsley and we need that versatility. It is really important that a squad has a minimum two or three of those players.”

Around 800 Bantams fans are expected to make the trip. Half of those will be taking advantage of the club’s free travel offer as City look to halt a six-game losing run in the league.

“The fans can only help us,” added Hopkin, who has made former Scotland international Paul Caddis his second free agent signing after snapping up O’Brien in mid-September.

“We are going to a free-scoring team who love to get on the front foot. We have to be organised.

“Against a team like Peterborough, we have to be more solid defensively. They can really hurt you.”

Even without the ‘Evans factor’, City face a tall order today.

It could be the first of two visits to Peterborough in three weekends, an encounter with Posh the prize on offer when Hopkin’s side host Aldershot Town in Tuesday night’s FA Cup first round replay.

Nevertheless, Hopkin insists his side is moving in the right direction despite just one of the club’s last 17 league and Cup outings having yielded a victory.

“We have been getting better,” added the Scot. “The results may not show that just yet but I do believe the performances have improved. But we need more.”

The capture of Caddis, released by Blackburn Rovers in August, is a step forward for Hopkin in his quest to arrest a slide that began way before his own arrival in September.

Julian Rhodes, the club’s former owner who recently answered an SOS call from the owners to return, helped get the deal over the line as the planning continues towards January’s transfer deadline.

“Julian is a very positive person,” added Hopkin. “He and Edin are working very closely together.

“He is obviously a big Bradford City fan. He has also owned the club, has been chairman and has a vast experience that can really help us.

“Getting players in isn’t easy. Some just don’t want to come to League One. But everyone at the club is working very hard to strengthen.”

Last six games: Peterborugh United LWWLWW, Bradford City LLLLDL.

Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).

Last time: Peterbrough United 1 Bradford City 3; September 9, 2017; League One.