Bradford City 0
Port Vale 1
Saturday 29 September, 2012
By Joe Cockburn
The result didn’t tell the full story for City today as we went down 1-0 at home to Port Vale. And at this stage of the season, it doesn’t really matter that much either.
With no scramble for points, we can afford to play well and not get the result and that was certainly the case today. The team performed impressively but it just wasn’t to be in terms of scoring goals. And it showed with the fans’ reaction at the full time whistle, applauding the players off and not even a hint of a boo that would have come in the same situation last season.
The tactics were similar to Tuesday night; Will Atkinson once again starting on the right, with Kyel Reid inevitably coming back in on the left. This clearly allowed Reid more of a free run out; he gave right-back Richard Duffy a lot to think about before the break. His crossing let him down, however, often failing to find a man and numerous mis-hits – some of which ended up outside the box, not even giving the Vale defence a slight test. But this be his character: if he was a consistent performer he would be playing every week in the Championship. He spent a lot of the second half on the right hand side, which frustrated me a lot, as he is nowhere as good with his right foot, meaning he often shifted back on to his left, but then he felt the need to shoot a lot, so that ruined his performance for me.
Stephen Darby was unlucky to lose his place after a good performance at right-back on Tuesday. He is yet to do anything majorly wrong, and I don’t like seeing a centre half at full-back, it makes the team a little flat, and means the winger often has to do a lot on his own. That said, Rory McArdle did well today, and rarely performed his aimless lump upfield.
Hanson and Wells were partnered up front, Wells did well enough, but Hanson was below par. His headers were weak, and he struggled to win headers against the sizeable pairing of Clayton McDonald and John McCombe. He connected with at least three pinpoint crosses during the game, and in fairness the crosses lacked pace, but he needs to learn to generate his own power, rather than letting the ball just hit his head and glide into the keeper’s arms.
Hanson’s performance perhaps seemed worse in comparison to the fantastic one at the opposite end from Tom Pope. His tireless work and ability to win headers he had no right to win is just what City would love from Hanson. If he had a partner like Wells, Port Vale would be unplayable.
The game started in a fantastic fashion, and continued that way to the half time whistle; with both sides fearlessly attacking, the game could have turned either way, which it did. A rare mistake from Gary Jones gifted Tom Pope with the ball, then McArdle accidently took out Luke Oliver with an unnecessary slide tackle to open it up for the Vale striker, who did what he seems to always do against the Bantams.
However, that was a rare opening for the visitors, who created just two other chances of note, both coming in the second half. Firstly, Ashley Vincent should have done better after a quick break, shooting straight at Jon McLaughlin. The City stopper also made a fine save from the quiet Jennison Myrie-Williams, after a bit of a scramble in front of him.
City controlled the majority of the game, and had multiple attacks and the ball spent a lot of time in the Vale defensive third, but too often the attacks fizzled out into nothingness, with poor crosses, wild long shots or weak efforts at the keeper ending each good spell City had. The bottom line is, there weren’t many clear goalscoring opportunities for the home side.
The first two minutes, however, saw two unbelievably clear-cut chances. First Wells finding space but firing straight at the keeper and then, from the resulting corner, Hanson headed into the side netting – many City fans thinking it had somehow sneaked in at the far post. At that point, I thought my cheeky punt at 4-2 might have been won me £66 from my 1 pound coin.
The first half continued to be exciting. It was clear from the first five minutes that there were two good sides on the pitch, and this set out for a good game. Numerous half chances were created, but the game began to slow and unfold when the visitors realised the referee was prone to a con or 25. Every sticky situation for them resulted in a dive or a sneaky foul on Hanson or Wells, but Mr Paul Tierney was determined not to give anything City’s way.
City went in at half time unfairly 1-0 down, and didn’t really look like scoring in the second half. I think Port Vale’s choice of ends had something to do with this; we score so many goals when we attack the Kop in the second half, the players undoubtedly urged on by the fans they are playing towards. Today, playing towards the Bradford End after half time, the game seemed to fizzle out, the fans didn’t really get into it and it became rather flat.
Credit to Port Vale. They did just what they had to do: scored the goal and defended well, to go home with the three points. I think they were also helped by our extra-time win on Tuesday night. Players looked a little leggy, and I think Gary Jones was the biggest casualty of this. Playing 120 minutes on Tuesday, then another 90 today, and at 35, he struggled more as the game went on. Passes were over and under hit, and Mr Reliable wasn’t as reliable as usual. But we can be sure that this won’t be the case on Tuesday when he returns to his former stomping ground.
Fan’s reaction was mixed after the game, some saying we looked really good, others saying we never looked like scoring. I say both. We played well, but didn’t create enough clear cut chances to win the game by a considerable margin.
Thoughts now turn to Tuesday night at my favourite away ground, Spotland. There are several former Rochdale players in our squad who will be out with a point to prove, and let’s hope the atmosphere is as good as it usually is when we play there.
I will leave you with one thought that I heard, which I think sums things up perfectly. We will play worse than that and win this season. Will we be happy then?
City: McLaughlin, McArdle, Oliver (Connell 81), Davies, Meredith, Atkinson (Hines 62), Gary Jones, Doyle, Reid (Thompson 87), Hanson, Wells
Not used: Duke, Darby, Ravenhill, McHugh