Port Vale 0
Bradford City 0
Tuesday 5 March, 2013
By Gareth Walker
On the face of things, getting a point away from home against the side who are second in the league would be considered a job well done. However, after City’s second half performance tonight, anyone who was at Vale Park would find it difficult to argue that we didn’t deserve so much more.
City went into the game on the back of a good win on Saturday in the local derby against York and were hoping to gain back-to-back league wins for the first time since mid October. Port Vale were in poor form having only won once in their previous five games.
Phil Parkinson again shuffled the pack as he made three changes to the team from Saturday, with Rory McArdle, Zavon Hines and Garry Thompson replacing Andrew Davies, Kyel Reid and Nahki Wells. Vale meanwhile gave a start to returning loan signing Anthony Griffth and left Lee Hughes on the bench.
The first half was a relatively even affair with both sides enjoying decent spells of territorial possession and looking to get forward where possible, although relatively few chances were created. From a City point of view, this mainly seemed to be because of slight over elaboration on the edge of the Port Vale box. Will Atkinson in particular guilty of this, having got himself into decent positions on a couple of occasions.
The Valiants were trying to use the pace of Jennison Myrie-Williams down their right flank, but he was well shepherded by the impressive Carl McHugh, who also bravely headed away a cross from in his own six yard box despite losing a boot in the process.
The best chance of the first period fell to the division’s top scorer Tom Pope. A free kick was hung up to the back post from the City right. McHugh seemed to mistime his jump and this allowed a Port Vale player to head the ball back across goal. It was met first time by a thunderous Pope header, which had Jon McLaughlin completely wrong footed. Somehow, however, the City shotstopper managed to fling himself back to his left to produce a stunning one handed save, one which Width of a Post editor Jason McKeown described as “The Save of the Season”.
In truth, it was one of those saves that would be replayed over and over again if the game had been shown live on television, and it was definitely the highlight of what had been a relatively entertaining first half.
The second 45 was a different contest to the first in that City really dominated and had their high flying opponents on the rack for large periods. Hines and Thompson in particular were tormenting the Vale defence every time they got the ball, and James Hanson was winning more than his fair share in the air against the experienced Darren Purse. The home side started to look edgy as City increased the tempo. And there were a couple of cynical fouls which resulted in yellow cards, as they attempted to stem the flow that City were putting into their play.
It was from two of the resultant free kicks that Hanson had the two best chances of the game. Gary Jones, whose delivery looked back to its early season best, put in two tremendous crosses. Both were from the City right and both were met firmly by the head of our number nine. The first was well saved by Vale Keeper Chris Neal, although the effort lacked direction as Hanson was put under pressure from the challenge of Purse. The second, however, was a free header that was met firmly yet was disappointingly directed a good three yards wide of the post.
At the other end of the pitch, Pope was looking starved of service although he did have one headed chance from a breakaway that he directed straight into the arms of a grateful McLaughlin.
City had really upped the tempo and it was only an injury picked up by Thompson and his subsequent enforced withdrawal that signalled the end of a spell of complete Bantam dominance. It was a shame to see Thompson go off injured because he has been one of the stand out performers over the last two or three games. It is to be hoped that the injury isn’t a serious one that would prevent him from being involved in what remains of our hectic March schedule.
Wells came on and was immediately involved in the action as he turned left back Daniel Jones and set off towards the penalty area, only to be let down by some poor control. He also had a run down the City right shortly afterwards which involved him beating a couple of defenders and then going down in the box amidst some half hearted penalty appeals from the City faithful.
The home side did eventually have a spell of pressure on the City goal after Reid had been brought on to replace the tiring but extremely impressive Hines. McLaughlin, however, was rarely trouble as most efforts were somewhat wayward shots from the edge of the box. Even the introduction of Hughes, the man who most away fans love to hate, did little to spur the home side on; apart from one flick on that was well intercepted by Michael Nelson, before the onrushing Louis Dodds was able to capitalise.
It was, in fact, City who finished the game stronger with a couple of Reid crosses causing panic in the penalty area and being scrambled away when the ball just wouldn’t drop for a Bradford shirt, even when it squirmed under the body of Neal and was begging to be put away. The last incident of note in the game was the dismissal of Doug Loft in injury time for a clumsy challenge in the centre circle which left impressive referee James Adcock with little choice but to show the red card.
The point, although a welcome one for City, is one which does little to enhance our push for the play offs. And it is to be hoped that we look back on this game at the end of the season as one point gained rather than two dropped. In order to do that, it is surely now imperative that we take at least four points from our next two games against two of the division’s strugglers Aldershot and Plymouth.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Nelson, McHugh, Hines (Reid 76), Ravenhill, Jones (Doyle 90), Atkinson, Thompson (Wells 65), Hanson
Not used: Duke, Davies, Gray, Connell