Port Vale 2-1 Bradford City: Captain Conlon punishes Bantams to fourth consecutive defeat
Above: Andy Cook and Luke Joyce battle each other for possession (Source: Lewis Storey, Getty Images)

A flurry of first half goals resulted in the three points remaining in Staffordshire, as Port Vale extended their unbeaten run to nine games, with their eight win in nine over a lacklustre Bradford City side.

Despite the final score, it was the Bantams who originally took an early lead thanks to veteran striker Clayton Donaldson, who bundled a teasing low ball past the Vale goalkeeper with pure composure.

The early goal seemed to inspire the Valiants however, as Darrell Clarke's side responded immediately courtesy of Theo Robinson, who capitalised on some woeful Bradford defending before calmly firing past Sam Hornby, somehow finding himself with an ambitious amount of space in the box.

But Port Vale captain Tom Conlon was the eventual hero, as he gratefully accepted the responsibility of a penalty kick before hammering the ball past a helpless Hornby.

Pressure is beginning to mount on joint managers Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars, with Bradford now winless in four and seeing their play-off hopes crumble.

  • Teams

Port Vale: Brown; Gibbons, Smith, Legge, Brisley, Worrall, Whitehead, Joyce, Conlon, Swan, Robinson.

Bradford City: Hornby; Sutton, P O'Connor, A O'Connor, Wood, Vernam, Cooke, Watt, Crankshaw, Donaldson, Cook.

  • Story of the match

Ahead of the visit of the Bantams, Port Vale manager Darrell Clarke spoke on the stature of their opponents and their recent sticky patch of form, saying: "When you're managing a football club that, no disrespect, probably should be higher in the pyramid, everybody is on your back when you're on a bad run. Their fans don't expect League One football, their fans expect Championship or Premier League football." 

Despite his reminder to his players to not be daunted by the size of the Bantams, it was the away side who looked to open the score early on. Charles Vernam, who is yet to really prove himself in the claret and amber, drove forward with intent and found space after a one two with Andy Cook, but his powerful effort was parried comfortably by Scott Brown.

And just fourteen minutes in, Bradford showed their intent to end the three game losing streak and found the opener, courtesy of Donaldson. A long searching ball found Cook on the wing, who surged forward before volleying the ball into the path of the former Crewe Alexandra striker who calmly knocked the ball past Brown from five yards out.

But the high that the Bantams were feeling was short lived, as the Valiants showed exactly why they have seven wins in their last eight. Luke Joyce found himself with more than enough space on the edge of the box, before using some excellent vision to thread the ball through to Robinson, who latched past some poor defending before firing past Sam Hornby from close range.

Just like that, Port Vale had completely flipped the game on its head. Ollie Crankshaw followed his man into the box and clearly forced a shove into the back, allowing the referee to call an obvious penalty. Up stepped Conlon, who had been having a fantastic season as captain of the Vale, calmly dinked his tenth goal of the season down the middle, propelling Port Vale into the lead.

Heading into the second half and Brown, who had been a pedestrian in the Port Vale goal for the majority of the game, was called into action as he sprung down to his right to divert a teasing effort from Cook, as Bradford continued to search for an equaliser.

Port Vale looked to avoid this however and nab their eight win in nine games, as David Amoo and Robinson linked up before the latter was played in behind, but his shot was weak and smothered by Hornby.

  • Takeaways

Valiant Vale build for next season

Whilst the home side are only six points adrift of the play-offs with two games left of the season, it does look increasingly unlikely that they'll sneak in, but nevertheless it's an exciting time to be a Port Vale team.

The work rate of Clarke's side is remarkable, not stopping all game despite the hot weather and fighting for every loose ball, giving Bradford no time to think. It's also applaudable to turn the result around as quick as Port Vale did, but with the play-offs looking unlikely, fans will be excited for what's coming next season with the fantastic run of form right now.

Worrying times for Bantams

Concerns and agitations continue to rise in the Bradford society, with fans beginning to doubt the work of Trueman and Sellars, despite the way they have turned the club around. 

Play-offs are now out of the equation, but with contracts running out with some key players, it might be a time to prepare for recruitment and testing out new players ahead of next season, as today's performance simply wasn't good enough.

  • Star man

Tom Conlon

Captain Conlon was inspired in the middle of the pitch, having every shot he took on target and managing to net the winner. A major positive is that the majority of his successful passes came in the Bradford half, showing the attacking intent he possesses. 

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