For most of this season, our league form has been disappointing and the cups have provided a welcome pick-me-up. But the situation is reversed this weekend as we head into a league game looking to recover from double cup defeat. Hopefully those two losses in the FA Cup and JPT won't affect our confidence too badly and we can continue our recent league form, which sees us unbeaten in seven League Two matches and now just five points behind the play-off places.
The situation for Bradford is of course rather different. They are still basking in the glory of their 3-1 victory over Aston Villa in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final on Tuesday night with the second leg coming up soon. Their excellent cup run does appear to have distracted from the league though, with the Bantams winning just once in five league games and losing to Barnet last weekend. They also have the added instability of speculation over the future of manager Phil Parkinson after interest from Blackpool. This could either be a very good time to play a Bradford side with their collective mind elsewhere, or a very bad time to play a side who are understandably on a high after upsetting a Premier League side just a matter of days ago.
And they will be hoping that they can continue that momentum as they look to name a possibly unchanged XI this weekend, though Andy Gray, who has joined on loan from Leeds, could feature. As for us, Wilder has several options that weren't available to him during the week, with new loanees Lewis Montrose and Justin Richards both being cup-tied in the JPT. In addition, both Adam Chapman and Deane Smalley could be available for selection after returning from lengthy injuries – though it would be a surprise if either were to start.
Our recent record against the Bantams leaves a lot to be desired, losing to them by two goals to nil when they visited the Kassam earlier in the season. It was also Bradford who inflicted on us our biggest defeat since returning to the Football League as we fell to a 5-0 pasting in October 2010. Valley Parade has not typically been a happy hunting ground: the last time we won there was in 1994.
There are several links between the two sides, most obviously manager Chris Wilder who spent a season with Bradford in 1997-98. In addition, Jake Wright came through the Bradford youth system, as did Luke O'Brien (in fact, his brother still plays for Bradford – rugby league side Bradford Bulls) and the returning Deane Smalley also spent a brief spell on loan there last season.
From the Vaults
Bradford City v Oxford United, 21st February 1998
The arrival of Malcolm Shotton as manager had temporarily revitalised United's league form, and we travelled to Valley Parade with three wins from his first four games in charge. But when we came up against a midtable Bradford City side that counted a certain journeyman defender named Chris Wilder in their midst, the match was a little less exciting than Shotton's earlier matches and the two sides played out a goalless draw.
You can find this and many other old Oxford matches in our Video Vault.
Also This Weekend
The youth team return for their first competitive game since the winter break with a trip to Cheltenham Town. The young U's have already beaten Cheltenham twice this season, 4-2 at home and then 1-0 at Cheltenham in the League Cup. Their game against Barnsley during the week was postponed for the third time due to an unplayable pitch.
It's another big weekend for the ladies, fresh from their 6-1 demolition over league rivals Keynsham Town in the Women's FA Cup last weekend. They travel to second-placed Forest Green Rovers as they look to extend their lead at the top to six points. They have form on their side, after narrowly overcoming their opponents by a goal to nil earlier in the season. The reserves are in action as well, as they prepare for a League Cup tie away at Aldershot Town, who are currently five points clear at the top of the Southern Region Premier Division.