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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Big Match Preview

League Two
Bradford City vs. Crewe Alexandra
Saturday October 10, 15:00, Valley Parade

As recently as 2002, Dario Gradi's Crewe faced up to a Bradford side including Stuart McCall in the Championship. Seven years later, and the pair meet in the dugout in the basement division as the Alex make the trip to West Yorkshire.

For the visitors, Gradi has returned as manager in a temporary capacity after the sacking of Gudjon Thordarson. Four successive losses spelled the end for the Icelander, and 68-year-old Gradi has stepped into the breach.

His first game, a 3-2 defeat to Rotherham last week, continued what's been a disappointing start to the season for the Railwaymen, relegated from League One last May.

Defensive frailties have been at the heart of Crewe's troubles. Fifteen goals have been leaked in the last five games and Gradi has been busy in the transfer market strengthening his backline with the signing of Carl Martin from Non-League Wealdstone.

Currently languishing in 17th, the Cheshire club were expected to challenge for the top-seven, and with the strike power of Calvin Zola and Joel Grant, who have notched up nine goals between them so far, they have goals in the side if they can stop conceding at the other end.

And Alex have already recorded two wins on the road this season, at Darlington and Grimsby, so will go to Bradford hopeful of getting some kind of result.

However, Stuart McCall's hosts are on a strong run and looking to extend their unbeaten record in League Two to nine games.

Stuart McCall is in his third season in charge at Valley Parade

It follows what had been a slow start to the season for the Bantams. An opening day 5-0 defeat at Notts County was the first of three games where City failed to find the back of the net.

Then, an extraordinary 5-4 win at Cheltenham began an upturn in fortunes which has taken the club through to the third round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, and secured impressive wins over high-flyers Rochdale, Shrewsbury, and Chesterfield.

Currently lying 9th in the League Two standings, leading lights in the team include midfielders Michael Flynn and Chris Brandon, who have both scored three goals this season, and strikers Gareth Evans and Michael Boulding.

It's a clash therefore between two teams on contrasting runs and with varying degrees of confidence. Gradi should transform Crewe's fortunes, and must look to plug holes at the back.

A trip to in-form Bradford probably wouldn't have been his choice of fixture to turn things around in though, and all three points should remain at Valley Parade after this particular game.

Nobes' Prediction: Bradford City 2 Crewe Alexandra 1

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