Central League Reserve Fixture
Port Vale 5 (Burge 8, Williamson pen 29, 45, Marland 71, James 88)
Bradford City 1 (McHugh 23)
Kick Off: 7.00pm
at Vale Park
In front of the watching Bantams boss Phil Parkinson, Ricky Ravenhill made a welcome return from a six week lay-off this Wednesday as City's reserves travelled to Port Vale for their first away fixture of the new campaign.
Against a potent and more experienced Vale outfit, City would end up suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of their hosts, but the most pleasing and most important aspect of the night was undoubtedly seeing Ravenhill back on the pitch in City colours once again.
The midfielder, who it had initially been feared would be out for three months after damaging knee ligaments back in pre-season, managed to get through just over 70 minutes unscathed.
Ravenhill was joined in the Bantams' line-up at Vale Park by fellow first-team squad members Ross Hannah, Adam Baker and Carl McHugh, who would go onto score the Bantams' goal in the game.
Vale, whose starting eleven contained only two apprentices and a smattering of senior pros in it, took an early lead thanks to a fine strike from distance by Ryan Burge.
After team-mate Rob Taylor had teed him up from a free-kick around 25 yards from goal, Burge let rip with a driven low effort that beat Stuart Morrison's outstretched hand before nestling in the bottom corner.
City tried to respond shortly after going behind but Vale 'keeper Sam Johnson was out quickly to the very far end of his penalty box to narrowly beat Hannah to a searching Connor Erangey pass.
A loose pass from Kingsley James would present Hannah with a better sight of goal around ten minutes later when the Vale midfielder coughed up possession just outside the area.
Hannah took on the strike first time on his favoured left foot, with Johnson just about turning the venomous effort away with an unconvincing tip-over.
From the resulting corner, City managed to get themselves on level terms in the game when McHugh rose unchallenged to head home Baker's near post delivery.
Vale were back in front six minutes later from the penalty spot, however, when Robert Hiza was penalised for bringing down James inside the area.
Ben Williamson took responsibility for the kick and coolly sent Morrison the wrong way to re-establish Vale's advantage in the match.
Vale nearly doubled their lead thanks to a dipping free-kick from Burge shortly afterwards but Morrison produced a smart reaction save to tip the effort around the post.
The Burge near-miss sparked off a good spell of Vale pressure on City's defence but the Bantams' young back four stood up well to the period of home dominance.
City had a decent chance of their own ten minutes before the interval when Erangey forced Johnson to dive down low to his right to keep out his well-struck effort from outside the area.
A far post James corner presented Gareth Owen with a promising scoring opportunity three minutes ahead of the half-time break but the experienced defender's fierce goalbound header was just about kept out by the frame of Morrison.
There was still time in the half for Williamson to grab his second of the match though when he turned smartly just inside City's area before finishing in impressive fashion with an angled drive into the far bottom corner.
Williamson nearly had his hat-trick at the beginning of the second half when he was picked up in middle by a teasing Tom Morris centre.
The Valiants forward took on the strike first time from around the penalty spot but his firmly-struck side-foot thudded against the bar before bouncing away.
Around ten minutes after the interval Hannah found himself on the end of a promising opportunity to halve City's deficit when he raced clear of Vale's backline.
Coming in from a wide position, Hannah tried to side-foot pass Johnson from outside the area but his low effort whistled past the near post.
Just before the hour mark, Louie Swain replaced fellow apprentice Andrew Boote to join Hannah in attack. Swain's arrival on the pitch meaning a move to right wing for Baker.
Swain wasted no time in getting involved in the action following his introduction as the tall striker tested Johnson with a drive from just outside the area after picking up the ball from Forrayah Bass.
At the other end, Ryan Lloyd fired narrowly wide of Morrison's near post with a strike from just inside City's area following neat foot-work from the Vale forward.
With just under twenty minutes to go Vale grabbed their fourth of the match from a move that owed a lot to the pace of Taylor.
Out-pacing Hiza to bring the ball from around the halfway line to deep into City territory, Taylor eventually lifted a cross into the area from a wide position in an attempt to find the lurking Williamson in the middle.
With McHugh for company in the box though, Williamson wasn't quite able to get onto the centre, but the ball did drop into the path of Vale substitute Ollie Marland, who crashed a downward drive past Morrison from around ten yards out.
Shortly after Marland's goal, Ravenhill was taken off, seemingly a predetermined move, for apprentice midfielder Tom Bott to bring his return appearance to an end.
Williamson, who was still on for a treble after his first half double, should have captured the match-ball fifteen minutes from time when he was picked out from the byline by Adam Yates.
Despite being positioned just outside the six yard box and right in front of goal, the Vale striker could only blast over though.
Eleven minutes from the end City made their third and final substitution of the night as apprentice forward Connor Bower replaced Hannah.
A fifth in the match for Vale came within only two minutes of normal time remaining when a drive from distance by James took a wicked deflection off team-mate Marland to leave Morrison completely wrong-footed and the ball nestling in the corner.
|PORT VALE||BRADFORD CITY|
|1. Sam Johnson||1. Stuart Morrison|
|2. Adam Yates||2. Robert Hiza|
|3. Tom Morris||3. Forrayah Bass|
|4. Kingsley James||4. Scott Brown|
|5. Joe Davis (c)||5. Carl McHugh|
|6. Gareth Owen||6. Kyle Harrison (c)|
|7. Joshua Croft||7. Andrew Boote|
|8. Ryan Burge||8. Ricky Ravenhill|
|9. Ben Williamson||9. Ross Hannah|
|10. Ryan Lloyd||10. Adam Baker|
|11. Rob Taylor||11. Connor Erangey|
|13. Joe Hemmings||12. Connor Bower for 9 (79)|
|15. Jack Pryor||13. Jack Bentley|
|16. Will Whieldon||14. Jonathan Lynn|
|17. Ollie Marland for 7 (60)||15. Louie Swain for 7 (57)|
|18. Dougie Price||16. Tom Bott for 8 (71)|