By Tony Leighton
It's third bottom against second top as lowly Bradford City visit high-flying Southend United for a Friday night npower League 2 match that is vital to both teams, particularly the Bantams as they look to climb out of danger.
Phil Parkinson's team have been at the wrong end of the table throughout the season to date and, after a mini-revival that saw them take seven points from four games in October, they have failed to win any of their subsequent six League outings.
The Shrimpers have meanwhile spent their campaign at the other end of the table, but after a 17-match unbeaten run in League and Cups they have lost their last three games in succession - to Swindon Town in the Johnston's Paint Trophy, to Cheltenham Town in League 2 and to Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup.
So it is perhaps not a bad time to be facing Paul Sturrock's side at Roots Hall, though Bantams boss Parkinson may beg to differ. "It's going to be a tough game against a very good team," Parkinson told football-league.co.uk, "but it's a great challenge for us and we're looking forward to the game.
"Our results haven't been great in the League of late, but we have been better defensively without being able to transfer decent performances into victories. We've drawn our last two League games and could have won them both, so the aim now is to start putting three points on the board instead of one."
Bradford's most significant successes in the season so far have come in knock-out competitions, especially the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in which they beat League 1 big boys Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United before succumbing to Oldham in the Northern Section semi-final.
They are also through to the third round of the FA Cup after beating another League 1 side, Rochdale, and then League 2 rivals AFC Wimbledon to earn themselves a third round tie away to Championship outfit Watford.
Parkinson, who was appointed manager at Valley Parade at the end of August, said: "You don't beat the likes of Huddersfield and the two Sheffield clubs without having something about you, and we had some good nights in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy with those three Yorkshire derbies.
"The game at Oldham proved to be a tie too far for us, but that was another good occasion with a great backing from our supporters. Hopefully they'll turn out in their numbers again when we go to Watford, and we'll aim to put on a good show for them.
"The fans have been excellent since I came to the club and it's my job to give them a team they can be proud of. That doesn't happen overnight, but we're working on it and there will be some changes made in the January transfer window.
"We need a stronger squad and we need to improve our League form in the second half of the season to start moving up the table."
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