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It's still all to play for

2 May 2013

Bantams boss Phil Parkinson believes City's hopes of making the Play-Off Final are far from over despite the home defeat to Burton Albion in Thursday night's semi final first leg.

A first half Calvin Zola double and a Robbie Weir strike just before the break proved enough to secure Gary Rowett's men a one-goal advantage going into the second leg at Burton's Pirelli Stadium on Sunday lunchtime.

Weir's effort, coming after Nahki Wells had pulled one back for the Bantams from the penalty spot following Zola's two earlier goals, had given Burton a 3-1 lead going into the final quarter of the contest at the Coral Windows Stadium.

Garry Thompson's stunning strike sixteen minutes from the end crucially pulled a one back for Parkinson's men - a goal that could eventually prove decisive come the final whistle on Sunday.

For that to be a possibility though, Parkinson knows an improvement on City's first leg showing, especially in the first half, will definitely be required. 

Parkinson said: "Obviously we know it is all to do on Sunday, but it could have been worse for us considering the way we played in the first half.

"It is half time in the tie and we find ourselves a goal down. The onus was on us tonight and we didn't really deal with it well.

"But the tables will turn for Sunday now, and we are still in this game. 

"The only thing I can focus on really, however, is just making sure we produce a far better performance than we did in the first forty-five minutes tonight (Thursday).

"We have got punished tonight. Sometimes you can play badly and get away with it, but we got punished for a poor first half display. At half time though, the pressure was on the players to stand up and be counted, and they did.

"We know that the Play-Offs can cause a bit of a edginess, but this team has worked its socks off for each other all of this season.

"Tonight though, I felt we just didn't really play as a team as well as we could of done. The defending tonight was also probably one of our poorest defensive displays as well.

"They (Burton Albion) have got some good attacking players, don't get me wrong, but we have some good defenders in this team also. We just didn't function as a defensive unit tonight.

"We were too open in the first half. Second half, we responded very well, had some chances, and also got the goal back. As I say, it is all to play for still.

"I have to make sure now that come Sunday, whatever happens in the game, we put in a far better performance."

Thompson's thunderous drive in the seventy-fourth minute of the match was seen by many as the goal that keeps City in with a fighting chance going into Sunday's decisive second match-up with Burton.

Commenting on Thompson's effort, Parkinson said:"It's a great goal for us because now with the scoreline effectively one nil to Burton, it makes it an interesting game on Sunday.

"We'll go down there (Burton) and have a real go to win that game.

"We are going to be up against a good side but we want to keep our season alive.

"People said that we were favourites going into this game (the first leg), and now the tables have turned and the onus is on them. The challenge for us now is to see if we can play to our very best come Sunday.

"In fairness to our group of players, they have been outstanding this season, but we need a performance from them on Sunday.

"We need it for ourselves so that whatever happens in the match, we come out of the game with credit. There is a sense of determination around the dressing room at the moment to try and put things right.

"We want to know that, whatever the outcome (on Sunday), we will be coming off the pitch with our heads held high knowing that we have put a performance in to do the season justice. If we do that, who knows where it will take us."

Despite the undoubted quality of Burton's play throughout the majority of the Valley Parade match, City certainly could claim that a couple of key moments seemed to go against them on the night.

Firstly, Zola seemed to be clearly offside as the striker latched onto a forward pass from Zander Diamond before his second goal, while Damien McCrory amazingly escaped without even a booking after appearing to dive in front of the ball and block Thompson's goal-bound strike with his arm for City's penalty.

Having not seen either incident clearly before coming up into the club's press area for his post-match interviews, however, Parkinson felt he wasn't really in a position to comment too greatly on either point.

He added: "People have told me that (Zola was in an offside position) but I haven't really seen it myself properly yet. 

"Once again in regards the penalty decision, it was a bit difficult from where we are by the dug-outs to see but normally those sort of incidents do result in a red card, but that wasn't the case this time."

Kyel Reid played just over half an hour after coming on as a second half substitute following a recent groin injury.

Barring any reaction to his run-out, Parkinson now must decide whether the flying winger is ready to be put back in contention for a starting berth.

Parkinson said: " Kyel hasn't really trained with us since his injury. He has been doing all his work recently with our physio and fitness coach. We had him on the bench tonight with the plan to maybe throw him on for the last ten minutes but we've ended up having to use him for longer.

"I think if he hasn't had any real reaction to that, he'll be fine. But he does need a couple of days of good training in him to put himself in the picture." 

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