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MANAGER: Not a lot in this at all

Paul Simpson on a very finely balanced tie

17 May 2023

Everything about Sunday night’s game suggests that it hangs right in the balance as to who will progress to the Wembley final, with two very evenly matched teams poised to lock horns once more in what is building up to be a mouth-watering encounter.

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Speaking after full time at Valley Parade, manager Paul Simpson said: “We went to win the game, I wanted to win it, but the most important thing was to stay in the tie.

“I know we’ve given them a goal start going into next Saturday, but if we can play the same way as we did for the majority of this game, keep creating chances, then I really think we have players who can score.

“After going a goal down quite early on in the game I thought it actually helped us settle, as stupid as that sounds. And I thought we produced some really good football. I thought the fitness levels looked outstanding.

“We kept going to the end, and the chances we created were really good chances. I thought some of Owen Moxon's deliveries from set plays were outstanding. I still don’t know how we didn’t score off some of them.

“What we’ve done is show that we’re a good side. We've shown that we can compete with the teams at the top of the table in this game and now we'll need to do it again.”   

On the magnitude of the game at the weekend, he commented: “It’s a brilliant occasion to look forward to. Who'd have thought this last February that we'd be looking at hopefully a full house at home next Saturday?

“Two teams fighting it out to try and get a game at Wembley. It's an absolutely brilliant game to look forward. Hopefully plenty of people will want to come.

“Let's make it a really good occasion for ourselves. Let's get four sides of the ground bouncing, like we had 2,400 fans outsinging whatever, 17,600, let's hope that we can make a proper noise, make a real atmosphere and the players go and put on a performance that gets us a third game.  

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“The fans were magnificent, fair play to them. They’ve been an absolute credit to our club all season these supporters, and I do think the Bradford City fans have been a credit to their club as well.

“This was two football clubs who wanted to do it properly and go hammer and tongs, and two sets of supporters who have done it properly as well. Now we need it again on Saturday, we need them here in their numbers, and hopefully we can put on a performance, get the finishing right, and let’s see where it takes us.

“To have all four sides of the ground packed would make a real difference. We desperately need them next weekend. I think the players have responded after a nervy start, they responded to the atmosphere and to our fans encouraging them, and they’ve shown a level of performance that’s been really pleasing. Now we need another one to give us a chance to go on to a third game.”

On the psychology of how to approach the game, he told us: “Well, it's theirs to lose now, isn't it? It's ours to win and it's theirs to lose.

“So, it's how do they go about it. I know what we have to do, we have to win the game. It's up to them how they do it. We need to play to the same level as the first leg and I know we’ve got the energy, the legs and the firepower we need to bring to the party next Saturday afternoon.”  

The one-goal advantage is a slender one in any game, and with 90 minutes to play it’s definitely one that’s hard to call.

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“There’s not a lot in this at all,” he told us. “I think the league table shows that, there's only a five goal difference.

“Our records are virtually identical, except for us scoring five more. Today we haven't shown that, that we’re five goals better, but I'm really pleased with the chances we've created.

“We've had quite a few games where we haven't created enough, but on Sunday we've created more than enough to go and win the game.

“It hasn't happened, so hopefully we're saving it for next weekend and we've got to play with the same energy, the same desire, the same commitment. The same composure on the ball and if we do that at home, I think we've got a hell of a chance.”  

“We all know that it takes a win on Saturday, it’s as simple as that,” he continued. “We have to win the game and win it by two goals, whether that be in 90, whether that be in 120, whether or not we take it to penalties, we have to find a way.

“Like I say, I thought the game was a really good advert for League Two football. They've got themselves ahead, they'll fancy themselves now, but we also know that we've done enough there to get something out of the game and given us a bit of confidence to take into the weekend.”

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