|Bradford City 0|
|Port Vale 0|
By Tim Penfold
Bradford City’s recent revival under the newly-announced interim management duo of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars hit a slight bump as they could only manage a 0-0 draw against a dour Port Vale side
The only real surprise in the team selection was the presence of Sam Hornby making his league debut for City against his former club. Richard O’Donnell missed out through injury, while Gareth Evans and Clayton Donaldson dropped to the bench with Harry Pritchard and Callum Cooke returning in a 4-2-3-1.
It was definitely a night to be indoors, and much as I have missed being at Valley Parade I didn’t miss it quite as much this evening. The pitch showed the signs of the overnight snow, and it made for a scrappy and low quality game.
Vale started the brighter with a couple of early half-chances, but City came into the game as they defrosted. It took a while for their first shot, but when it came it took a decent save from Vale keeper Scott Brown to deny Callum Cooke. But it wasn’t really a half for quality, for ball-players like Cooke and Billy Clarke, despite their attempts to make things happen. The City player who really stood out was Levi Sutton, all energy and running, flying down the right then popping up to steal possession in the middle and move the Bantams forward again.
For all the promising build-up play, there wasn’t anything clear from City. It was a half of nearly chances – Eliot Watt’s corners nearly found a City head, Harry Pritchard nearly got on to a through ball, Connor Wood nearly got free down the left. All the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
Stand-in keeper Hornby was mostly untroubled, except at one point towards the end of the half where he was caught by Vale striker Devante Rodney and stayed down worryingly for a moment.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first – City mostly dominant in possession and territory but unable to break down a stubborn Vale backline. Vale had occasional moments, but foundered against a backline well-marshalled by the O’Connors.
Again, it was a half of “nearly” chances – a City corner made its way to Billy Clarke whose fizzed ball back across missed every City player. A Connor Wood cross went past everyone. Lee Novak almost got through at one point but his chest control forced him wide and he overcompensated, dragging his shot across the goal.
Vale, meanwhile, did very little apart from a long-range effort that nearly caught Hornby out, until they suddenly had one big moment. Devante Rodney and Sam Hornby went racing towards the ball on the edge of the box and it seemed like the City stand-in caught the Vale forward, but the officials were unmoved. Trueman and Sellars, for all of their qualities, have been slightly lucky managers as well as good ones so far.
The penalty shout seemed to spark City into life. Cooke fired over from inside the box, then substitute Gareth Evans went on a run down the left and his cross eventually found Finn Cousin-Dawson who shot wide under pressure. Then came City’s best chances – Cooke’s first time shot from outside the box was parried, but as Clarke reacted a Vale defender took the ball off his toes. A couple of minutes later Levi Sutton wriggled clear down the right and his cutback to Evans led to a blocked shot, but that was the sum effort of City’s attacks.
This game did showcase the improvements that City’s interim managerial duo have made defensively, as the Bantams were tough to break down and conceded no clear opportunities. But it also highlighted the issues that they still have to solve. For all of City’s improved form, it’s been based on wonder-goals going forwards rather than creating lots of good chances. Tonight’s pitch made the intricate interplay that Cooke and Clarke thrive on difficult, but the front line is still lacking in pace and movement, and there wasn’t enough on the bench that Trueman and Sellars could turn to.
Still, that’s something that can be solved with some time on the training pitch and the right recruitment in January. And a run of 11 points from 15 is better than we could’ve dared hope when Stuart McCall was sacked. City are still looking upwards rather than over their shoulder, despite the occasional blip along the way.
Categories: Match Reviews