Port Vale 2
Hughes 42, Loft 67
Bradford City 1
Saturday 17 August, 2013
By Joe Cockburn
It was a frustrating afternoon for Bradford City and their fans as Phil Parkinson’s men fell to their first defeat of the season.
It felt almost like a return to League Two. The style of play – dictated by Port Vale – was very unattractive. The ball spending a lot of time in the air. The game very stop-start, with the usual striker-defender grapples a more than regular occurrence.
City started off relatively okay, using the width of the pitch to good effect and stretching the defence with clever passes, but that quickly changed as the home side grew into the game. Tom Pope and the ever-antagonising Lee Hughes were getting very physical, which stopped City from playing and killed any flow the game had.
Pope wasted two glorious chances in the first half, heading wide and over with the goal gaping. Jon McLaughlin was also called into action, producing a fine double save to prevent Pope from scoring at close range.
The Bantams had completely lost their way at this point; mishitting passes, underhitting passes, and playing so many long balls it was like Peter Taylor had morphed his way back into the dugout. Because the game was so aerial, Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle couldn’t gain their usual level of control over the game and were so often spectators as play passed them by.
But it was when they were trying to play out and get the game back into their control that City conceded. Play got a bit tippy tappy between the midfielders and the defenders with no-one wanting to clear the ball, and James Meredith horribly mishitting a backpass to allow Hughes in to slot under McLaughlin. It had been coming, but it was still a massive kick in the teeth occurring so close to half time, and in such poor fashion.
Half time came and the players trudged off understandably disappointed with their first half showing. The most notable problem was the wide pitch: it wasn’t suiting Mark Yeates and Garry Thompson, neither are exactly touchline huggers. So there was a lot of space left unexploited. And in the second half, Port Vale only got stronger.
The ball was spending a lot of time in and around the Bantams’ penalty area, City only being able to clear their lines and it regularly just coming straight back at them. The equaliser arguably came against the run of play.
A good ball from Yeates put Nahki Wells into the box on the left. He tricked his way through but saw his shot saved by Chris Neal in the home goal. The ball fell nicely for Thompson but he saw his well struck volley also saved. However, there was Wells to prod home his 12th goal in his last 12 games. Let’s keep that quiet please, City fans!
But the surge of confidence didn’t last long, and Vale quickly regained their stronghold and their advantage. From a corner, the ball came out to home skipper Doug Loft, who’s effort was heading for Jon McLaughlin’s arms, before the slightest of touches sent it perfectly into the top corner. Unlucky for City, but deserved for Vale.
The Bantams did begin to grow into the game; Wells having a few snapshots and Thompson just failing to connect with a volley from range. Kyel Reid and Rafael De Vita came on to replace the two wingers. Reid’s pace was something that we needed in the game; but as usual, he failed to impress, particularly angering away fans by spoiling a good attack with an awful shot from outside the box.
It was De Vita who had the best chance of equalising for the visitors, doing well to get through defenders in the box, but keeper Neal spread himself well to block the Italian’s powerful close range effort. Alan Connell came on for the ever impressive Stephen Darby, but it came too late for him to have any impact on the game.
It was a poor performance, but I think we are only disappointed because we have grown to expect so much more, and that is good for the club. If Peter Taylor was in charge, we would have considered that game a good performance, so it shows how far this club has come since those dark days.
It is also worth noting that the game against Port Vale was the third in the league, and the third that Parkinson has named the same starting XI. This consistency is something we need and is a good thing. However, I wouldn’t mind a few new players as I think there isn’t much competition for places, and the bench is a bit lacking in attacking threat.
It was a defeat, and it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable one, but it can only get better from here. And I am confident Phil Parkinson and his men will turn it round next week, when we face the small task of Sheffield United.
City: McLaughlin, Darby (Connell 88), McArdle, Davies, Meredith, Thompson (De Vita 71), Doyle, Jones, Yeates (Reid 71), Hanson, Wells
Not used: Ripley, Ravenhill, Taylor, McHugh