Mark Hughes

BRADFORD, ENGLAND - MAY 14: Mark Hughes, Manager of Bradford City, acknowledges the fans following the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg match between Bradford City and Carlisle United at University of Bradford Stadium on May 14, 2023 in Bradford, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Mark Hughes Ready To Seize Wembley Chance With Bradford City

By David Williams

Mark Hughes insists his Bradford City side are full of confidence and under no pressure as they prepare for their Sky Bet League Two play-off semi final second leg against Carlisle on Saturday.

The Bantams hold a 1-0 lead heading into the all-important deciding leg at Brunton Park thanks to Jamie Walker’s strike.

It is the first time Bradford have reached the play-offs since being relegated to the fourth tier in 2019 and is also former Wales manager Hughes’ first-time being involved in the post-season.

Hughes claims his side are in the preferred position and are confident based on form heading into the play-offs.

He told a press conference: “I would much rather be in our position than Carlisle’s.

“Going there with a win under our belt, not only the scoreline but the confidence that winning a football match brings. If you look at the last 10 games, we’ve had more wins than Carlisle have and we are coming off the back of a win.

“In terms of confidence, we are in a better place and there is absolutely no pressure on us because we are on the front foot and looking forward to the game and we are in a good frame of mind heading into it.

“I don’t know if there are mind games going on, might be from Carlisle’s point of view but certainly not from us, we are just confident in our own ability.”

Hughes is enjoying his first experience of the play-offs and whilst he has not been involved in the post-season before, he has drawn comparisons of the atmosphere at the University of Bradford Stadium to European nights at his previous clubs, and insists the big-game atmosphere on Saturday will not surprise his team.

He continued: “I’ve enjoyed the occasion and atmosphere around the game.

“It reminded me of the European nights and there’s a certain atmosphere and noise to a big crowd when there’s something on a game and to experience that again is something I enjoyed.

“It’s been enjoyable in the play-offs, no different really to games at the top end of the Premier League or semi-finals I’ve been involved in.

“They were very nervous in the opening period, which was a consequence of the stage and the atmosphere which will be replicated, not to the same extent, but they will have a big crowd and will have to deal with that. That’s what we are used to, every weekend basically.

The teams have met three times already this season and have only produced two goals, both sides winning 1-0 sandwiched between a goalless draw in March and the Bradford boss is not falling for any mind games being played from the opposition camp.

He said: “It’s part and parcel of the game, they will try and psych us out but we are in a good place in terms of where we are at and what we are about and we just want to get the job done.

“We are ready for it, the game itself will be a challenge and everything surrounding it but I think we will deal with it well enough.”

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