Bradford City 1 MK Dons 0
Happy anniversary Phil Parkinson. Happy anniversary Bradford City, one and all.
A year on from the Capital One Cup final and Valley Parade is entitled to smile again at the memories.
For Parkinson, today also marks 11 years as a manager. He too can look back and reminisce without any sense of guilt at City’s current scenario.
It’s gone, get over it. That has been the nay-sayers’ motto when anyone offered last season’s heroics as a defence against all out panic during City’s barren stretch.
Well couldn’t the same be said about that three-month winless run now?
It’s time for less of the Private Frazer “we’re doomed” mentality and more of a Pharrell Williams vibe. Happiness is the truth.
While nobody is lighting a cigar just yet, you sense that equilibrium has been restored.
Just imagine where City would have been if these last two results had not dropped in their favour? Don’t underplay the significance of the week’s six points.
Neither winning margin was emphatic – one secured three minutes over the 90, the other with an air kick from the opposing keeper. But both games reinforced the belief that this team have been programmed never to quit.
Whatever the doubters might have thought, the Parkinson ethos remains strong within his team. Don’t pull up, don’t stop running, don’t think for a minute that the result is beyond you.
That was apparent in Carl McHugh’s thumping header that finally broke down Port Vale’s back door. And it was evident again on Saturday with the hassling, harrying Hanson forcing the panic which presented him with the goal to hit double figures.
Of course it came from a howler which Dons goalkeeper David Martin will not want to relive in a hurry. But without Hanson bearing down on him, would he have rushed and ultimately swished at Stephen Gleeson’s well-struck back pass?
MK Dons will analyse it as an embarrassing defensive gaffe; City as an example of chasing every cause. Different views but same result.
Valley Parade has seen many similar; Nahki Wells almost made them his trademark. This time it was Hanson but the thinking and work ethic was the same.
It is something that Parkinson has drilled into the City psyche. Don’t give anything up easily.
Opposite number Karl Robinson had said before the game that Valley Parade will always have a “special place” in his thoughts.
When he was number two to Paul Ince in 2008, it was the stage for the club’s first promotion since hot-footing it out of London for a new identity 11 years ago.
That feeling of nostalgia will have dipped after City completed their first League One double.
Like the meeting at stadium:mk in November, Robinson could offer a strong case for his own team at least sharing the points.
Phrases like “out of sight” and “dominated” were sprinkled throughout their post-match debrief. It sounded reminiscent of similar home inquisitions during that run that we don’t need to mention again.
Nobody is pretending that this was a comfortable City win. Vale, despite the lateness of the goal, had been fully deserved.
This one had to be scrapped for against a team technically far superior to the previous visitors, even with crippling injuries reducing them to only four fit subs.
Their Premier League style set-up with the extra midfielder meant City needed patience to get the ball. The floating Ben Reeves was always a predatory threat and moved Parkinson to “thicken”, in his words, his own middle line with Chris Atkinson’s addition midway through the second half.
He came on for Aaron Mclean, who had just taken a whack, but it was no slight on the striker’s performance.
Unfortunately, until he gets off the mark, it is easy to point the finger at January’s highly-paid acquisition. But there were plenty of good signs about his display.
Most impressive was his anticipation of Hanson’s headers.
That almost telepathic understanding that the big man enjoyed with Wells is not going to come overnight but the evidence was promising.
Mclean’s attitude summed up the general performance. It was never particularly fluid but you could not fault the application.
Not everything went to plan. Passes went astray on a sticky, unpredictable surface; left winger Adam Reach had his least effective outing on the day that his loan extension was confirmed and Kyle Bennett underwhelmed once again.
But the work-rate never slackened. From the back four, who claimed successive clean sheets for the first time this season, to the dominant Hanson, City were prepared to dig in and do whatever it took.
For the first half hour, it was the Dons who really probed and pushed for an opener.
Jon McLaughlin needed a strong right wrist to beat out a drive from Reeves. Then Izale McLeod left Carl McHugh on the floor and angled a shot past the keeper – only for Stephen Darby to clear off the line.
As half-time approached, City suddenly threatened. Andrew Davies nodded across the box and Hanson’s thumping volley crashed back off the bar.
Milton Keynes continued to have the upper hand after the break, without offering a genuine threat on the home goal.
Concerned about the extra room they were enjoying, Parkinson went like-for-like 20 minutes in as Atkinson got his first taste of Valley Parade action.
And within six minutes, he was on the winning side.
Gleeson’s ball back to his keeper was rushed and carried a bit too much pace, Martin was spooked by Hanson’s menacing advances and the striker showed the wherewithal to calmly steer into the empty net from a tight angle.
Hanson could have had another late on but Martin saved from his downward header and the rebound was scrambled into the side-netting.
It did not matter as City negotiated the generous portion of eight added minutes tacked on by referee Gary Sutton and three more points were in the bag. It’s becoming a habit again.