Football League Expert & Columnist
Bradford v Leeds: Bantams making progress; Whites' new recruits have much to prove
James Hanson thrives on crosses - and so would Billy Sharp, says Peter Beagrie
Last Updated: 27/08/14 11:52am
Intense Yorkshire rivalry will be resumed on Wednesday when Bradford meet near-neighbours Leeds at Valley Parade, or the Coral Windows Stadium as it is now known, in the Capital One Cup.
There should be an incredible atmosphere giving the Bantams the chance to redress the balance having had some disappointing recent results against the Whites.
Four of the last six derbies were played in the top tier; another, in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, attracted 20,000+ to Elland Road; and the last time these teams squared off, in this competition in 2011, Leeds managed a 3-2 win on home turf.
A 6-1 mauling in 2001 apart, these games are close, with Leeds winning four games by one-goal margins, and Stan Collymore’s bicycle kick giving Bradford their only points in the last six fixtures.
From a league perspective, things were going very well for Bradford until they suffered their first defeat of the season at home to Peterborough on Saturday, but a seven-point haul from four games represents a solid if unspectacular start.
James Hanson has notched three goals already and now has Aaron McLean, Mason Bennett and Billy Clarke as potential partners up top with Nahki Wells having moved to Huddersfield in January.
The Bantams’ midfield diamond has also brought some success following wingers Kyel Reid and Garry Thompson, instrumental in the League Cup and promotion exploits of a two seasons ago, moving on.
But the loss of Andrew Davies to a broken arm is a huge blow as he is the voice and the organiser in the back four, a back four, I must add, that includes two attack-minded full-backs, in Stephen Darby and Alan Sheehan, who add the width and the crosses Hanson thrives on.
There have been a dozen new recruits but I am yet to see any evidence that these players can catapult Leeds into the top 10.
Leeds, like Bradford, lack natural width – they have done since Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass left – and I think that will stop them getting a greater goal return from the potentially prolific Billy Sharp.
I brought Billy to Scunthorpe in 2005 and he quickly scored 24 goals that season and 32 the next in a system that gave him more room to operate and to get centre-halves isolated.
Sharp is the best excuse Leeds have had to get excited in a season in which everybody is holding their breath and hoping for a positive outcome.
David Hockaday, as expected, is already under extreme pressure, following a solitary win and Massimo Cellino changed his mind about sacking Hockaday in the wake of the 4-1 defeat to Watford, saying he is as responsible as the manager for the poor results.
There have been a dozen new recruits already, many from other shores, and like Leeds fans I am yet to see any evidence that these players can catapult United into the top 10 let alone the play-off mix.
Wednesday’s game is a battle between one club who seem to have their problem days behind them and another whose chairman is grabbing more headlines than his players.
It seems a long time ago that I was playing alongside Stuart McCall and Dean Saunders against the likes of Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and Olivier Dacourt, so let’s hope the good times return for these two great clubs.