Rory McArdle wants to put City’s promotion bid back on a firm footing before Wembley comes calling.

Saturday’s trip to Fleetwood will be their first league action for three weeks since Oxford won at Valley Parade.

City have four games before the Capital One Cup final on February 24 and McArdle insists it is vital that they get the League Two form rolling again.

With only one point from a possible 12 since the last league win on Boxing Day, the Bantams have slipped to tenth in League Two. But they are still just three points off the play-offs with a game in hand.

McArdle said: “Over the league season as a whole, it’s probably been the only real sticky patch that we’ve hit.

“It’s frustrating when you see the table but the majority of teams will go through the same thing at some point. It affects everyone.

“People talk about the cup being a distraction but if we had been winning games, nothing like that would be mentioned.

“Within the space of a week we had probably our best performances of the season against Aston Villa and then played Oxford and gave one of the worst.

“I don’t know why you can be so high one minute and so low the next. If anybody knew the answer to that they would make a lot of money.

“It’s just the fact that we’re not picking up the points that we should and people are starting to look for excuses. There are no excuses, we’ve just not been performing (in the league) as we should be.”

City have kept just one clean sheet – at Morecambe on New Year’s Day – in the last six league outings. As a defender, McArdle believes they need to provide a more solid base.

He said: “We’ve got to stop conceding goals. We need some nitty-gritty 1-0 wins.

“When it’s a horrible game like the Oxford one, then at worst we should be going away with a point.

“Think back to when we beat Plymouth 1-0 or winning 2-0 at Oxford, which was probably one of our best away games because we defended so well. We looked like the real deal there.”

Three of the four pre-Wembley games are on the road, with leaders Gillingham the only side to be visiting Valley Parade. After that, City face two long trips in the space of four days to Wycombe and Wimbledon.

McArdle said: “We’ve proved this season that we can get results and there is quality in the team. We won’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“But it’s not just going to happen. We’ve got to go out there, put the basics right, get back to square one and start defending properly.

“If we’re on our game, there’s no reason why we can’t beat anybody and get back on track.

“A couple of wins and you’re pushing up the top again, through this patch and putting a run together.

“By the end of February, the cup will be out of the way. We want to be right there in the mix then so we can concentrate on the league.”

Meanwhile, City’s home game against Wycombe, postponed on Saturday, will now be played on Tuesday, March 19.