We’re covering some distance in a short space of time; our next away day leading us to Bradford – and an unhappy hunting ground for Boro’. Four times we’ve been to Valley Parade, now called the Utilita Energy Stadium for sponsorship reasons. And three times we’ve come away with little to show. Now the Bantams are ranked among the favourites for promotion this season. That’s a label that’s likely to make our task a little more harder than you could say it already is. So, what lessons can we learn from the story we call ‘history‘?
Bradford City v Stevenage
Utilita Energy Stadium, Bradford — 17 August 2021 — Sky Bet League Two
It’s not just our record at Bradford that’s an issue. Our overall head-to-head is pretty rubbish; a return of two wins from eight leaves ample room for improvement. The first of our pair of wins came back on 2 April 2011 as Boro’ closed in on a League Two playoff place; Darius Charles on target with the winner after John Mousinho‘s first half pelanty had been cancelled out. It made amends for our 1-0 defeat at Valley Parade on 14 August 2010 – the very early knockings of our Football League odyssey – too.
There was a two-season break in relations after that; our promotion to League One putting the footballing distance between us and them. When they caught up with us for the 2013-4 season, we bagged our best return against the Bantams from a single campaign. And that’s a little odd, given that it was a season we’d like to forget. Our 1-1 draw at home on 31 August 2013 doesn’t compare to the legend that was our 3-2 win at their place on 1 March 2014; Luke Freeman with two absolute bangers to help keep our flickering survival hopes alive.
Back to League Two, back to losing ways…
The sub-header for this section sounds quite morbid, but it’s also accurate. At least, it is for the start of what is the third era in Steve and Brad relations. The Bantams lost their own fight to be kept on the League One roster in summer 2019. So, we were reunited for the 2019-20 campaign. And we all know how that turned out for us.
As it so often seems, we kicked things off with an August date against the West Yorkshire team; welcoming them to the Lamex on 20 August 2019 – and offering all due hospitality. It includes the three points as a Tom Soares OG set our guests on track to a 1-0 victory.
In what is a bit of a rarity, we did manage to squeeze in the return fixture before Covid-19 led to the season ending early. It was another midweek mission; heading north on 11 February 2020. For all our struggles going on, Charlie Carter gave us a half-time lead. But the hosts roared back in the second half, while we wilted tamely. The 3-1 defeat was our fifth in a row, while the game proved to be Graham Westley‘s penultimate in charge before departing less than a week later.
Renewed optimism – nipped in the bud…
After a positive start to the 2020-1 season, Boro’ were back at their place on 26 September 2020. If the season had started on time, it’d have yet again been an August date for us both. For us, we had the misfortune of a Covid-19 outbreak that wrecked our preparations on the eve of the trip.
We still made the journey all the same, and put in a good shift. Elliott List‘s emphatic finish sent us into the interval ahead, but – much like the last time we’d led at half time in a league game – we couldn’t see it out. The hosts came back in the second half and turned the tables to secure a 2-1 win. Oh, and that last time that we’d held the lead at the break in a league game? Yeah, that was Bradford away in February 2020. Lightning can strike twice, folks…
The reverse fixture on Easter Monday (5 April 2021) saw us in an unfamiliar position. With a few games left, the playoffs were still technically within reach. But we really needed three points at the Lamex to keep those dreams alive. A win would have also taken us above them in the table (if we remember right). Annoyingly, Luke Norris‘ first half goal wasn’t enough. It was level going into the break and no-one could edge it in the second half. Final result: 1-1.
To be fair, it was our 12th match in a row unbeaten.
Now, we both come into the new campaign with our respective senses of optimism. For them, a title tilt is being expected. For us, we’ll settle for fancied outsiders. This’ll be an interesting one…