Can Bradford City find form again?
With the January transfer window wrapped up, clubs can now focus on the season's second half. One team hoping to improve current form is League One outfit Bradford City. Although the Bantams sit in fifth place, they have lost their last four matches. Which areas must Stuart McCall's side address to start picking up wins again?
Consecutive defeats to Northampton Town, Bristol Rovers, Rotherham United and most recently AFC Wimbledon have plagued Bradford's morale. The Bantams last tasted victory on New Year's Day, beating Fleetwood Town 2-1. Since then positive vibes have gradually disappeared around Valley Parade.
Despite their high league position, Bradford have conceded an incredible 45 times this campaign. Shipping in, on average, 1.5 goals per game means big improvements are required defensively.
Making just one signing in the January transfer window may have left Bradford fans disappointed. A few more new faces would have increased optimism.
The Bantams lone addition, Kai Brünker, joined from Bundesliga side SC Freiburg. The striker will hope to make a big impact on League One. He was signed with the intention of supporting Charlie Wyke up top. Appearing in the 4-0 loss against Rotherham, Brunker managed 28 minutes. He still needs time to adjust to English football. Wyke, meanwhile, is Bradford's top scorer this season with 12 league goals. If the two frontmen can form a strong partnership, results are likely to improve.
Bradford boss Stuart McCall has tried different formations in an attempt to rekindle his side's season. He's used the 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-3-3, but both have failed to produce on match days. The English-born Scotsman must now turn his focus to the next game, which is away at strugglers Oldham Athletic.
With only 16 league games remaining, the Bantams will be determined to finish the campaign strongly. They currently sit two points inside the play-off positions, meaning every match will be crucial from now until the season's end. An automatic spot remains mathematically possible, yet realistically out of reach. McCall's side trail second-place Blackburn Rovers by 11 points, having played a game more.
Bradford head into Saturday's encounter against Oldham with a glimpse of optimism. The Latics are in a relegation fight, four points from safety in 22nd place. The Bantams must embrace this game as it could prove the turning point. A negative result, however, could lead to disgruntled fans.
With the game taking place at Boundary Park, Bradford face a short 30-mile trip down the M62. Plenty of supporters will make the journey to present some noise inside the stadium. The Bantams certainly need the encouragement at the moment.
Bradford City's ambition is high. After finishing fifth last season, the club expects to secure at least a play-off position this campaign. There is one problem though. Other top-six hopefuls, including Peterborough United, Charlton Athletic and Rotherham, have either one or two games in hand. This could give the Bantams an added incentive to pick up all three points against Oldham. An early goal would ease tension, but lack of urgency may lead to further problems.
Can new signing Bruckner help fire Bradford to victory or will the team continue to rely on Wyke's goal-scoring exploits? Either way, Bradford must turn around their fortunes, quickly.