Sunderland vulnerable in pitch battle, says former Bradford City boss

Bradford boss Phil Parkinson

Bradford boss Phil Parkinson

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FORMER Bradford City boss Terry Dolan claims that Sunderland will be “definitely vulnerable” in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round clash at Valley Parade.

The Bantams’ cut-up pitch will offer testing conditions, with the surface attracting criticism from all parties in recent weeks.

That will give Phil Parkinson’s men hope of a first home victory over Sunderland since 1989, when Dolan was in charge of Bradford.

“I think they’ve got a great chance. It’s always an advantage in the cup playing at home and that could be an even bigger edge with the state of the pitch,” Dolan told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

“It will definitely be in Bradford’s favour.

“I’ve heard Phil Parkinson has not been happy about it from a league point of view. But this is a one-off cup game and Gus Poyet has already been complaining.

“Pitches have changed from when I was there. But I remember us playing Oldham in the FA Cup when it was really icy, they were worried about it and we were at them from the start.

“Sunderland are used to playing on billiard tables, so Sunday is going to be very interesting. They are definitely vulnerable.”

Sunderland have had a great run at Valley Parade since losing to a Mark Leonard goal late on in the new year Second Division clash in January, 1989, scoring four goals in four of their six visits, winning the other two 1-0.

But Dolan reckons that Bradford’s cup record under Parkinson, who has not lost a home tie against higher-league opposition in seven cup clashes, augurs well for the Yorkshire outfit, who stunned Chelsea with a 4-2 away in the last round.

“The players will be going into the game full of confidence. Several of them played against Arsenal and Aston Villa two years ago and now they’ve beaten Chelsea,” added Dolan.

“You have to say the win at Stamford Bridge was deserved – look at the highlights and quality of the goals. If that had been Chelsea scoring, people would have gone about them.

“I’m sure the Sunderland manager and his staff will be thinking about that more than the players. They just go out there and play automatically. But I just think when they turn up at 1pm and go out and look at the stadium they will definitely have concerns about the pitch.

“That’s got to be a good thing for Bradford.”