Bradford City 1
Port Vale 0
Tuesday 18 February, 2014
By Mahesh Johal
Walking to Manchester Victoria Station en route to Bradford, throngs of Barcelona fans covered the wet streets of Deansgate. Draped in their famous blue and red, excited supporters buzzed around in anticipation of the biggest game of the season. An epic battle between two of Europe’s finest sides; the game highlighted why the Champions League is the premier football tournament on this planet.
I’m not going to lie, I wanted to watch the game. I’m sure some of you wanted to watch that game. But let’s be honest, there is nowhere in the world that we’d rather watch a game of football than at Valley Parade. Further more, there’s no where we’d rather be than at Valley Parade watching a 92nd minute winner that finally slay the stats…one in how many was it?!
It was everything we deserved. Bradford City dominated from start to finish. They huffed and puffed – but that final ball, that clinical pass, that one opportunity deserted them. That was until the 92nd minute. With their eighth corner of the evening, Gary Jones’ cross was headed into the roof of the net by Carl McHugh. The header was as emphatic as the one he scored against Aston Villa in the League Cup semi final 13 months ago. It was full of desire, as McHugh threw himself towards the ball to convert the home side’s dominance into a winning goal.
We’ll harp on for years of the importance of his third against Villa, but tonight’s goal was of equal value to this season. One win in twenty one was the stat. Pressure was growing on Phil Parkinson’s shoulders. Another draw was on the cards. One win in twenty two it would read.
After the defeat to Carlisle changes were made. Some were enforced, with the Donegal youngster returning to the starting line up to replace the injured Matthew Bates at left back. Nathan Doyle partnered Jones in midfield; whilst Kyle Bennett was given another opportunity to turn around his floundering start at the club
City bossed proceedings, with the ever impressive Adam Reach dictating the game from the left flank. The on-loan Middlesbrough winger caused havoc and contributed to all things positive for Bradford. He was the ‘go to’ man and the architect of all sorts of problems for the visitors. With his loan spell expiring this week, Phil Parkinson and all those in attendance tonight will hope that an extension can be secured.
It was Reach’s lofted pass which set up James Hanson for the game’s first attempt. With the ball sitting up nicely, Hanson flashed the half volley attempt wide. The pair worked tirelessly throughout the first half and were both involved with a goal line scramble that nearly saw City take the lead. After a Hanson effort was cleared near the line, the resulting live ball fell to Reach; who’s audacious lob nearly caught visiting keeper Chris Neal off guard.
To think of the form book and coming off the humbling defeat to Carlisle, it was an extremely positive start by the Bantams. However, the good work was nearly undone by a poor Jon McLaughlin clearance. Running out of his area to clear his lines, McLaughlin’s kick found Chris Lines who shot on target towards the unguarded net. Thankfully Rory McArdle, who enjoyed his best game in some time, was on hand to head off the line. McLaughlin atoned for the error though and made a number of good saves throughout the match.
City continued their dominance in the second half with Aaron Mclean nearly scoring straight from the kick off. I’ve seen enough of the former Hull man to make the judgement that I like him. His endeavour and work rate are second to none, and he fits this team’s ethic. With the ball at his feet, there are signs of quality (Crewe being the example) but his value in front of goal is as yet unknown. In his six games in claret and amber, I can think of only one genuine scoring opportunity. That being his one on one against Preston. Quite frankly, the ball hasn’t bounced for him yet and this again was the case with this opportunity. His constant harrying created the chance; however, he acrobatically lashed away the chance.
Vale played the majority of the game on the back foot, but with a striker like Tom Pope there was always a chance. Their efforts were aided by referee Mark Brown, who progressively became a hate figure for his leniency towards the ever fouling Anthony Griffith and the allowance of Vale’s time wasting tactics. Saying that, they did have chances with McLaughlin needed to deny Jordan Hugill and Doug Loft. In all honesty, the visitors’ opportunities were few and far between, but they were clearer chances that challenged the City keeper. As the nerves grew, there was a feeling of ‘smash and grab’ in the visitors’ play.
Andrew Davies headed over from a corner, whilst in a role reversal of the first goal against Crewe, Hanson’s low fizzing cross missed an onrushing Mclean. Reach had chances but when his late effort rocked the post, Valley Parade sensed it was going to be one of those nights. One win in twenty tw…
Yet into the second of five injury time minutes, and with the Kop still loudly backing their side, McHugh was on hand to head home and end City’s baron run. In similar fashion to those orchestrated by Hanson in September, Valley Parade erupted as City finally got the win they so desperately needed and deserved.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, McHugh, Bennett (Thompson 71), Doyle, Jones, Reach, Hanson, Mclean (Gray 90)
Not used: Jameson, Dolan, Yeates, Atkinson, McBurnie