THE Valley Parade early birds who left before the end get no sympathy.

Yes, those fans might have beaten the crush from another magnificent crowd. But at what cost?

Let’s face it, you should know the score when City play Port Vale. Something always happens very late.

Think two seasons ago when Carl McHugh jumped highest to power home a winning header in time added on.

Think back more recently – and painfully - to Vale Park in February when Michael O’Connor’s penalty at an equally late stage ripped victory from City’s grasp.

And as we mark Phil Parkinson’s four-year anniversary as Bantams boss, let’s not forget his first defeat in the job in September 2011 was at Vale – to a goal in the last minute.

So seeing Devante Cole instantly write his name in lights with the latest of late, late goals beneath an adoring Kop should come as par for the course in these fixtures.

His debut strike – or should that be nudge – unleashed a torrent of emotion around the place that Gary Liddle afterwards compared to when City stunned Chelsea.

But it also smacked of the same mixture of joy and relief as when McHugh popped up with that late goal at the same end 18 months ago.

The Irishman’s header that icy February night ended a three-month wait for a win. Given the sticky start to the season, it’s felt nearly that long waiting for the present City side to get off the mark.

So what a perfect way for Cole to introduce himself just 24 hours after he had met his new team-mates over lunch at the training ground for the first time.

Parkinson had made the young striker wait for his chance, not surprisingly naming the same side who had restored pride with the battling draw at Barnsley.

But for 45 minutes, it looked like gremlins had got in the machine. City spluttered and faltered, unable to string passes together or show any attacking inclination to trouble a Vale side with four clean sheets out of six.

The biggest positive from a miserable first half was that it finished goalless. Vale might have controlled matters but they did precious little about it.

Ben Williams made a smart early save from Sam Foley and another low down from the physical Uche Ikpeazu’s overhead kick. But otherwise for all the uncertainty, City were not properly punished.

Parkinson’s half-time team talk was harsh but measured. No tea cups or insults were slung about, merely a few well-placed reminders about getting the midfield involved.

“I told them to relax a bit and just play,” he said. “We had to be better on the ball.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve played a certain way.

“We’ve got the power at the top of the pitch but we’ve always had technical ability in the middle of the park to play into.

“Whether it’s been Doyley (Nathan Doyle), Gary Jones, Liddle, Billy Knott, Lee Evans on Saturday – whoever it is we’ve got to use those players.

“We did that in the second period and the game opened up. Port Vale couldn’t get near us at times.”

The transformation was obvious. Within minutes of the restart, City were playing with more purpose and drive than they had showed.

And how the Valley Parade crowd responded! The Kop, to be fair, had refused to give up the ghost during that shapeless opening half.

But now with something genuine to get behind, the voices lifted, the drum beat got louder, the backdrop more intimidating for the visiting side now forced on to the back foot.

Mark Marshall, targeted by the Vale boo boys every time he touched the ball, had flattered to deceive before the break.

Now, switched to the right flank, he attacked with menace and intent.

He had City’s first shot on target and then delivered a teasing cross through the goal-mouth that was begging to be turned in.

Full backs James Meredith and Stephen Darby pushed forward more and more. The skipper, not a natural on the overlap, linked well with Marshall to keep Vale pressed in.

James Hanson had been muted by a first-half yellow card and a Vale game plan that suggested they were trying to get him deeper in hot water with every 50-50 challenge by rolling around on the floor.

That gamesmanship was ultimately going to prove their undoing with the time that referee Jeremy Simpson tacked on for afters.

Once again, the subs made an impact. Josh Morris, so bright when he came on at Oakwell, instantly linked with fellow new arrival Billy Knott to force Jak Alnwick into a decent save with his legs.

Cole was on by then, getting a roaring welcome when he replaced Steve Davies.

Looking to play on the shoulder of the defender and use his pace, Valley Parade waited for that special moment.

Marshall forced another save and Hanson headed wide before Cole had his chance. Marshall’s cross to the far post reached him on the stretch but he dinked it over the bar.

It seemed that would be the big opportunity – until the fourth and final added minute.

Rory McArdle launched a long ball out of defence; the type of hopeful clearance that Vale had generally dealt with.

Only this time it sneaked through, neither Hanson nor defender Richard Duffy getting a touch as it honed in on the penalty area.

Cole was alive to the possibilities, Vale less so. He wriggled in and pushed it goalwards – not the most convincing contact, but enough – and the ball took a further deflection off Alnwick’s knee before hitting the net.

It was no classic but a true poacher’s goal; one, you could say, in the family genes. City’s revival from that first half no-show was complete.

Vale boss Rob Page refused to use their midweek Capital One Cup exertions at West Brom as an excuse. But two hours plus penalties for an unchanged team was certainly a factor in the way they faded so obviously.

City were relieved to see on-loan Watford striker Ikpeazu depart the scene early – and Page got publicly criticised by his chairman on social media over his second-half substitutions.

Andrew Cole’s Twitter message was far more positive. “Go on my son” and “proud moment” were his immediate post-match comments to the winning goal – every word endorsed by the buzzing Valley Parade faithful.

City’s season, finally, has lift off.