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Silence is goal-den as Bradford City put gag on Nahki Wells
City 2, Sheffield United 0
City are making sure that Nahki Wells lets his scoring boots do the talking and nothing else.
The history-making striker is the Trappist monk of Valley Parade as the club inflict a vow of silence with the outside world – until 11.01pm next Monday at least.
They are trying to keep the goal-den boy under the radar until the transfer window finally slams shut. But it sure ain’t easy when he keeps hitting the net with frightening frequency.
Wells gunned down Sheffield United with another two on Saturday to take it to half a dozen for him already this season.
It also etched his name in the club’s record books as the first Bantam to ever score in eight successive games, eclipsing the previous mark set way back when by David Layne, John McCole and Jack Deakin.
In Bermuda, where he is up there with the president on the island’s ‘A’ list, they have just unveiled a giant mural in his honour on the side of a restaurant.
Here, simply having Wells available for the squad for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first round a week tomorrow would be cause for celebration.
While the official “not for sale” line remains, it would be naive not to think that an eye-watering late bid could still land on their doorstep in the next few days. August cannot end quickly enough.
So Wells was off limits for the post-match media but assistant boss Steve Parkin, who knows a thing or two about serious strikers, was happy to have his say.
He said: “It’s terrific. I’ve been in this position before when I was at Rochdale and had Grant Holt and Ricky Lambert. It makes you sleep a bit better at night knowing that you’ve got a goal threat. That’s what he is.
“Nahki’s blessed with pace and he’s got two good feet. He is also getting better at other things which he needs to do. The main thing is he keeps listening and learning from the manager and other staff.”
The fact that Wells is still a work in progress must send a chill down the spine of every League One defender. But you can see the huge strides he continues to take under the careful tutelage of Phil Parkinson and his coaching staff.
Gone is the one-dimensional goal chaser who was all pace and shooting. Wells is becoming a more rounded team player with a growing football intelligence.
Parkin said: “For me, he’s still got a long way to go. But he’s got a good attitude and the other players don’t let him get too big for his boots.
“He’s got to remember what’s got him there – the time and effort that other people have put in and his team-mates. It’s not all about him and Nahki realises that.”
But he was certainly the ultimate difference between the two sides in a pulsating Yorkshire derby.
Had it been Wells in Jamie Murphy’s shoes when the Blades winger broke clear in the third minute, this contest could easily have swung the other way.
It was the type of predatory chance that the City hitman gobbles up for breakfast. But Murphy was foiled by the alertness of Jon McLaughlin.
Had it been Wells stretching to make the close-range volley that Joe Ironside put into the TL Dallas Stand, the game could have been level 20 minutes from time.
At the moment – well, since April 20 to be fair – Wells is in the sort of dream form where he cannot miss.
He is also benefiting from the confidence and momentum of those around him as City continue to ride the promotion wave. Memories of last week’s blip at Port Vale were swiftly blown away.
Victory over Sheffield United at Valley Parade has been a long time coming. James Hanson was five days old when City last triumphed in November 1987; Wells not even a twinkle in the eye.
Eight games since have swung hugely in the visitors’ favour, although Saturday was their first time back for a decade.
Such a big game was always going to be another early indicator of how City stand in League One. The audience of 18,041 was Valley Parade’s largest league crowd since Portsmouth’s promotion party on the last day of the 2003 season.
And if the atmosphere for the first home game was raucous, it had nothing on this. The place bounced from the opening minute right through to the last.
The City faithful have had to be so patient to see their beloved side finally rise up – and they are clearly determined to make the very most of every second of it.
The 12th man was outstanding again. Not that the 11 out on the pitch were too shabby either. Gone was the sloppiness and lapses in concentration that cost City at Vale Park.
There was a steely resolve about the hosts against opposition who were a definite step up on the previous Saturday.
The Blades are in a period of transition, a new manager merging new players into a new system. But there is plenty of talent there.
David Weir, who did a passable impression of Barack Obama on the touchline with his white shirt and stately poise, has been told he will have the time to mould them into a complete unit. But it won’t happen overnight.
So while they posed a danger on the counter-attack, there was a lack of cutting edge. While Wells scores for fun, Blades lone frontman Lyle Taylor is still waiting to open his account after a summer move from Falkirk.
Wells had already checked his sights to force two saves from George Long – one unwittingly with his face – before the club record was set on the stroke of half-time.
Garry Thompson flicked a header into his path in the corner of the box but there was still plenty to be done. Wells leaned one way and then the other to throw off Sean McGinty before arrowing a drive across Long’s dive.
A late second goal gave them much-needed breathing space – and no guesses for who got it.
Raffaele De Vita’s snapshot popped up from Long’s hands, the impressive Hanson steered it to Wells slap bang in front of goal and the result was beyond doubt.
So that’s two home games, two wins and no goals conceded as City go marching on nicely. And another two on the growing scoresheet for the number 21 – but let’s keep it to ourselves.
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