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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 27

20 February 2013

Bradford City's heads are in the clouds. It doesn't matter what Phil Parkinson tells his players this week; all they will be able to think about is Wembley - the noise, playing on that beautiful turf, lifting the trophy. You can't do anything to stop that. We'd all be dreaming of those things if we were in their position.

I wish them all the luck in the world. Swansea City are overwhelming favourites to win the Capital One Cup Final of course, but with all the pressure on them, I wouldn't write off the Bantams' chances completely. In a one-off game they could produce another shock victory. It's not impossible.

Whatever the outcome, Bradford have been a tremendous advert for npower League 2 this season. They've beaten three Premier League sides en route to Sunday's Final - as well as high-flying Watford - so they fully deserve the big day out. They have earned it.

All Parky will want now is for them to put on a show, and to do themselves justice on this biggest of stages. They'll receive amazing support at Wembley, and he'll want his players to stand tall and relish it. As long as they don't freeze he'll be delighted - even if they don't win.

Once this match is over, the hard work will really begin for Bradford City. They've not been in great form in the league, so if they're to stand any chance of reaching the Play-Offs there will be no time to dwell on the League Cup. They can still gain promotion, but those heads will have to come out of the clouds the minute they arrive back in the town. They've proven they're good enough to do it.

With Easter fast approaching the pressure is really beginning to tell at both ends of the npower League 2 table. This is the time where nerves get frayed. It's the nitty-gritty part of the campaign.

Port Vale succumbed to 10-man Morecambe at the weekend which was a result few people saw coming, and leaders Gillingham haven't been in imperious form of late either. Everyone is slipping up.

The beauty of the division this year is that there are no formalities at all. You couldn't predict any match with great conviction, because there's so very little to choose between the ability levels of all 24 sides.

My son often has a flutter on the weekend coupon, and he calls me to ask which teams I fancy to win in this league on a given Saturday. All I say is 'don't bet son' because you won't find a single certainty! It must be a very exciting division for the fans.

In Essex this week there was a big hoo-ha about the return of rebel defender Bilel Mohsni, who refused to come back to the club this season because of interest from other clubs. After a loan spell at Ipswich Town ended he's been training alone, but an injury crisis meant Paul Sturrock put in an SOS to the defender.

Remarkably, the Tunisian was sent off in the first half of his comeback against Northampton Town, the fifth red card of his Southend career. What does Sturrock do now? I know him well and even though he'll be fuming - and probably wants to see the back of the boy - he will stick by him as long as he feels he can help the side.

It's a tough one because one troublesome individual can ruin a dressing room, but Bilel Mohnsi could also be a big asset for him if he gets his attitude and form right. With injuries mounting up it's a case of needs must, so I expect him to be utilised in the weeks to come, despite the disastrous return.

Last word goes to Torquay United manager Martin Ling, who has been forced to hand over the reins temporarily to Shaun Taylor because of an ongoing illness. I feel for Martin because he's obviously feeling very unwell, and I just hope that it's not too serious.

Torquay's form has suffered since beating Exeter City in the Devon derby, and the manager's absence will have added to the uncertainty, so I guess it's best for all concerned that Shaun focuses on the team, while Martin concentrates solely on his own recovery.

I think Torquay United will be fine in terms of avoiding the bottom two, but a few wins in the coming weeks will certainly help to make everyone, including their boss, feel better. I wish him well.

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