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Match Previews

npower League 2 Play-Off semi-final first leg preview

2 May 2013


The Football League Play-Offs get underway this week and there's an npower League 2 double-header on Thursday at 7.45pm, with one of the games taking place at Valley Parade, where Bradford City host Burton Albion.

The Bantams managed to secure a seventh-placed finish after ending the season strongly - winning five and drawing three of their last nine games - and the victory that confirmed their inclusion in the Play-Offs came against Burton, with Phil Parkinson's men winning 1-0 at home on April 20th.

That defeat for the Brewers ultimately ended their chase for an automatic promotion place but they finished the regular season in style by beating League 2 champions Gillingham 3-2 on the final day.

Manager Gary Rowett wants to continue that positivity in what is the club's first ever involvement in The Football League Play-Offs.

"We've got nothing to lose so we can go and effectively throw the kitchen sink at Bradford," Rowett explained to the Burton Mail, "whether that works is a different matter.

"If you go there with the mindset that losing 1-0 will be a good result, that's very, very dangerous. I don't think you can do that. We've got to be as positive as we can be and try to win the game."

Bradford's knock-out cup success has been well-documented this season, with the club reaching the Capital One Cup Final after seeing off the likes of Arsenal and Aston Villa. They also beat their Play-Off opponents Burton during that famous cup run - 3-2 after extra-time in Round Three.

Boss Phil Parkinson wants to see Valley Parade rocking again, like it was in the Capital One Cup, to give his side a better chance of winning and taking an advantage into Sunday's second leg.

He "The more intense we can make the atmosphere on Thursday, the more it is going to help our players.

"The vast majority of opposition managers, certainly in recent weeks, who come to the ground always comment about the atmosphere and how difficult it can make it for the opposition to play.

"We have to generate that sort of atmosphere again on Thursday. The closer we can get to getting the stadium full, the better it is going to be for us.

"As I said throughout our cup run, the whole experience of playing in the big games and dealing with the big occasions will help our younger players in their careers.

"We now have another opportunity to play in game of a similar magnitude to our cup matches."

For all the latest news on Bradford City please click here

For all the latest news on Burton Albion please click here


The other League 2 Play-Off semi-final first leg is between Northampton Town and Cheltenham Town, at Sixfields Stadium.

The two teams finished side-by-side in the league table but Cheltenham finished the higher - in fifth - having picked up two more points than the Cobblers.

They will take confidence from that coming into the two-legged semi, as well as the fact they have completed the double over Aidy Boothroyd's team this season.

Another factor to add is that fact Mark Yates' men were defeated in the Play-Off Final last year against Crewe Alexandra, so they will no doubt be wanting to use that as inspiration to drive them on to go one better this time around.

In his pre-match interview, manager Yates told Robins Player: "Of course that experience [last year's Play-Offs] would have done us some good. We can plan and prepare properly for it and draw on our experiences, but it's a different group, a different team, against a different opposition - it's just how you handle it.

"We're not looking beyond Thursday. Our squad is all good and all fit, everybody has been on the training ground today [Tuesday] and they're ready to go.

"We're going to have a physical battle [against Northampton], a bombardment from their set pieces - that are a fantastic weapon for them - and we have to deal with that.

"We need our players to embrace the situation, embrace the challenge, and really have a go at it."

Twelve months ago, Northampton finished the League 2 campaign sitting 20th, avoiding the drop into non-league by just four points. Manager Aidy Boothroyd has transformed the Cobblers this term, though, in what is his first full season in charge after taking over from Gary Johnson in November 2011.

Their home form has been one of the main positives this term, with their 17th win of the season at Sixfields being chalked up against relegated Barnet last Saturday, and 42-year-old Boothroyd insisted his team need to continue that.

"We have done very well at home this year and it's important that we maintain that but also I've been really pleased with our recent away form," the boss told

"Hopefully we can now put that all together and make sure that we come good at the right time.

"I'd like it to be another full house on Thursday night and the more noise the better it is going to be for us. We respond to a good positive crowd and we want to get a good result going into the second leg."

For all the latest news on Northampton Town please click here

For all the latest news on Cheltenham Town please click here

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