Impressive Bantams have pockets picked as Port Vale steal all three points (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Impressive Bantams have pockets picked as Port Vale steal all three points
Bradford City 0 Port Vale 1
The season is not even two months old but City have smashed several hoodoos already.
It’s been their best start at home for over half a century and the longest run in the League Cup for nearly a quarter.
There was even the success in pinning down Nahki Wells for the longer term, the type of deal that the club have too often been accused of failing to push through with their top players.
But not everything has changed. Port Vale still prove to be an annoying thorn in the side.
It is now six years since they were last beaten in open play at Valley Parade , barring the Simon Eastwood penalty shoot-out heroics in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. That was City’s only success in the last nine meetings between these regular sparring partners.
It hasn’t always been that way. Colin Todd beat Vale five times in a row at the City helm including the last league win on home soil in September 2006.
But Vale have possessed the Indian sign over West Yorkshire ever since. And judging by the evidence on Saturday, it is going to take some shifting.
Excuse the cliché but City will play worse than that and win comfortably; much worse.
As an all-round team display, they performed far better than in the crushing wins over Barnet and Wimbledon. The pace and style of their football at times was a joy to watch.
The fact that they trudged away empty-handed should not be a cause for doom and despondency; far from it. If anything it was further proof that City have the quality to sustain a genuine challenge after all these years of false hope.
Vale boss Micky Adams has been round the block long enough to know a smash-and-grab win when he sees one. He admitted that his side spent a long time under the cosh.
But credit the visitors for holding out as they did. To coin a memorable metaphor from Chris Kamara, they defended like beavers – and the dam refused to burst no matter how forceful the home pressure.
There was no bigger presence than giant centre half Clayton McDonald, whose catch-weight contest with Wells was one of the afternoon’s most enjoyable sub-plots.
Nobody was more desperate to score than the Bermudian, with that fresh three-year contract still warm in his pocket.
The true fairytale story was written for Wells to get the winner with his fourth goal in a week. But the way keeper Chris Neal defied him feet first inside the opening 15 seconds set the tone of the events to follow.
James Hanson had the goal ruffling from the resulting corner. But it was the side-netting and those unsighted fans who cheered in the main stand were quickly drowned out by the catcalls of the season’s largest away following.
An early strike then would surely have set City on their way to a fifth win in a row for the first time since the Premier League promotion campaign.
But like a woozy boxer hanging on the ropes, Vale managed to duck and dive and avoid that knockdown blow.
They still took a while to come to their senses and Hanson should have struck from close-range after Nathan Doyle’s deflected drive dropped straight at his feet.
And then there was the penalty shout that referee Paul Tierney turned away. The fussy Wigan official was happy to give everything else but he baulked at the big one when the ball spun up and appeared to strike Robert Taylor on the forearm.
It was straight in line with the assistant but his flag stayed down to the bemusement of all concerned. Vale survived once more – and cashed in with a goal from their first attack in anger while the home crowd were still chuntering.
The Vale goal sent shockwaves through the place.
Going behind having dominated was hard enough to take for City but it was the source of Tom Pope’s strike that caused the most consternation.
So Gary Jones proved that he is human after all. The bionic skipper has not put a single foot wrong since City championed his capture in the summer.
But for once, and it sounds sacrilege to even say it, he chose the wrong option and blundered badly.
His backheader towards Jon McLaughlin was too big a risk to take. The ball inevitably plopped into no man’s land with the keeper well short and Pope – a traditional adversary for the Bantams – finished with the conviction of a striker who has notched up nine goals.
McLaughlin was not to blame in any way and the keeper showed his worth with saves either side of half-time. One in particular from winger Ashley Vincent on the breakaway was crucial in keeping City in the contest as they committed more men forward.
But for all the effort and attacking intent, the home side could not get a clear sight on goal. McDonald and John McCombe were working overtime to deal with the stream of crosses and second balls.
That’s not to suggest that Hanson wasn’t throwing himself at every high ball. But none of his headers on target were able to trouble Neal.
Doyle, the only survivor from that last league home win over Vale, was denied an equaliser by McDonald’s block just in front of the line.
Then Neal tipped over from Wells in stoppage time before smothering Hanson’s header from the corner.
Vale joined Crawley as the only visitors to exit BD8 with three points in the last 21 home games. But Phil Parkinson was philosophical about the setback.
He said: “If someone is going to get something from us here, they’re going to have to defend really well. Port Vale did that and we put them through it all over the pitch.
“Burton was a bit similar because we dominated the game and then we conceded two poor goals. I can’t remember Port Vale having a chance before they scored.
“We really took the game to them but sometimes you get days like that.”