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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Defences set to come to the fore at Fleetwood

Fleetwood players lark around in training
1 of 1

Sky Bet League One playoff semi-final, second leg
Sky Sports 1, 6.30pm Sunday

Bradford travel to Fleetwood clutching on to a well-deserved one goal advantage and the defensively-minded Bantams could book their place at Wembley with a positive performance in Lancashire.

Stuart McCall’s men played at a tremendous tempo in Thursday’s first leg of their Sky Bet League One playoff at Valley Parade and should be slightly peeved to have broken down Fleetwood’s rearguard just the once.

Bradford dominated the exchanges throughout – enjoying 65 per cent possession and winning the shot count 25 to seven  – and they know that anything but a defeat will make amends for last season’s semi-final upset to Millwall.

However, Highbury Stadium is accustomed to low-scoring encounters and, much like at Bradford, two of League One’s meanest defences could cancel each other out.

Only second-placed Bolton conceded fewer goals than Bradford and Fleetwood – who shipped 43 apiece – and with a Wembley showdown at stake, stifling the opposition may be the wisest approach.

Just four of Fleetwood’s last 12 league home games have featured three or more goals and their final four matches at Highbury saw the net bulge only twice in total.

Uwe Rosler’s men will need to improve markedly from the first leg if they are to progress and if player of the year Cian Bolger is fit to return at centre-half, they have every chance of keeping Bradford’s attacking threat to a minimum.

With Bolger at the heart, Fleetwood kept a league-high 20 clean sheets this term and his leadership would enhance their chances.

The Cod Army’s problem is going forward and unless they score, they will be heading out.

Fleetwood – this season’s second-lowest scorers in the top-half of the table – failed to hit the target at Valley Parade and struggled to create any clear-cut chances.

Bradford have conceded just four times in their last seven games, three of those coming in a rare blip at champions Sheffield United, and they may settle for a low-scoring affair.

Recommendation
Under 2.5 goals
2pts 8-11 Betfred, Sky Bet


Team news
Fleetwood
The hosts may ring the changes. George Glendon and Ashley Hunter - both substitutes on Thursday - could return to the starting 11, while key defender Cian Bolger will face a late fitness test.

Bradford
Striker Alex Jones missed the first leg with a hamstring injury but could return if he passes a fitness test. Otherwise, Stuart McCall has a full squad to choose from.

Key stat
Fleetwood have scored only one in their last four home games.

With Bolger at the heart, Fleetwood kept a league-high 20 clean sheets this term and his leadership is pivotal to their chances
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