As Bradford City go in search of another FA Cup success, Alan Dudman runs the rule over the League One giant killers and their next opponents on Saturday…
Bradford City 2.6413/8 v Reading 2.982/1, the draw 3.55/2
Live on BT Sport
This year’s surprise package of the FA Cup, Bradford are 40.039/1 to win the trophy and 7.613/2 to reach the final. Who can forget the comeback of all comebacks against Chelsea in the fourth round? BT Sport cannot, as they have shown it as a replay this week. You need no reminding they were 2-0 down against Jose Mourinho’s side and yet triumphed 4-2. You might need reminding however that the Bantams were matched at 460.0459/1 In-Play to win outright when trailing.
This will be City’s first quarter-final since 1976 and manager Phil Parkinson has said that reaching the semi would be a greater achievement than their League Cup final appearance. Parkinson of course played over 400 times for the Royals.
The Bantams have progressed through to this stage thanks to wins against Sunderland (2-0), Chelsea ( you know the score), Millwall 4-0 after a replay, Halifax and Dartford.
Reading have only ever made the FA Cup semi-final once, back in 1927, and they have never beaten Bradford in cup competition. The Royals have faced Championship rivals in their run to this stage, beating Derby County (1-2), Cardiff City (1-2) and Huddersfield (0-1). According to Opta stats, this will be their sixth successive away tie in the tournament.
Steve Clarke has taken over from Nigel Adkins but still their form reads poorly. In all matches they have gained just two wins from their last eight, and were hammered recently by a resurgent Nottingham Forest.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet set himself up for a fall when describing the Valley Parade pitch as ‘one of the worst in the country’. Clarke, the dour Scot, has refused to be drawn on this subject, in fact, he’s refused to be drawn on anything about this cup tie, as talk of it has been pretty much banned. Poyet’s side failed to adapt to the surface, Clarke won’t make it an excuse – but it’s the elephant in the room.
The fact the League One side are favourites might be ‘pitch-induced’, but even without the aid of the 1970s throwback surface, few would like to back Reading in such poor form. This will be a tie they’ll be very wary of.
Bradford played on Tuesday but they rested seven players against Crawley and Gary Liddle is available again after suspension. The fact that Poyet said after the Sunderland defeat that ‘Bradford know how to play these games’ gives us an idea why they are rock-solid favs. It’s all about knowing where to play, and Parkinson’s side have been very successful at that.
Like previous cup games at Valley Parade, the match is a sell-out and it’s a fairly intimidating place. Reading will have to weather a bit of a storm early in the game, and the first 20 to 25 minutes might be the time to trade on no goals – be it the correct score or half-time markets. The draw outright is an obvious In-Play shout when both teams are fairly even on the outright market.
Under/Over 2.5 Goals
If a side can score four at Chelsea, surely they can hit the overs against Reading? Not so according to the market, which has chalked up under 2.5 goals at 1.79. The Bantams have hit this target (over 2.5 goals) five of the six occasions in their Cup run, although this is slightly skewed with matches against Halifax and Dartford.
Reading’s FA Cup ‘over 2.5’ record reads two from three and have scored two, two, and one on their travels all against opponents in the same division, but they’ll be tested in the air with Bradford forward James Hanson. The Bantams were excellent defensively against Sunderland though it must be remembered.
According to Opta, Bradford’s Jon Stead has netted five in his last six matches in the FA Cup and is the joint-leading scorer in the competition. He also has four assists making him the joint-top creator too. Stead played like Enzo Francesoli (one for the mature hipster) at Stamford Bridge with some deft touches and lethal poaching, odds of around 7.06/1 are interesting, but the to ‘score at any time’ market might reward backers of ‘El Principe’ at around 2.915/8.
Goals do not appear in ready supply for the Royals, having scored just twice in six Championship matches. However, veteran striker Yakubu came off the bench against Derby in the previous round to net the winner, and might be used as an impact sub again. First goalscorer no, as he is unlikely to start, but at any time – then yes.
Corners Match Bet
I’ve explored this avenue a couple of times, including Bradford’s League One encounter with the MK Dons (in which they won both the match and the corners). They drew 4-4 on this with Sunderland, and were 6-3 winners against Millwall in their replay at home. Odds of around evens will be fair.
Back Bradford City to win @ 2.6413/8
Back Bradford City to win corners match bet @ 2.01/1