Port Vale 1 (Hooper 58)
Bradford City 2 (Vincelot 41, Jones 74)
Saturday 25th February 2017 | Sky Bet League One | Vale Park
The Bantams returned to winning ways with a first league victory at Vale Park in almost a decade, with match-winner Alex Jones the man on hand to grab his first City goal against his former club. The Bantams forward latched onto Alex Gilliead’s cross to fire into the bottom corner after the hosts had cancelled out Romain Vincelot’s first half opener through JJ Hooper. It’s Jones who takes the headlines on his return from injury, scoring just two minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Storm Doris had been aggressively sweeping the nation throughout the week leading up to this game, and the wind nearly aided Vale inside the opening sixty seconds. Kiko, forward from left back, tried an audacious shot from a fair distance out and the wind caught the ball and forced Colin Doyle into a smart save, denying the hosts an early lead.
City threatened shortly afterwards in quite an open start to the game. After Celtic loanee stopper Leonardo Fasan had flapped at Nicky Law’s cross into the box, the ball dropped to Josh Cullen and the midfielder's well-struck follow-up attempt took a deflection off Vale skipper Ben Purkiss before going behind for a corner kick.
A relative newcomer to the Vale squad, former Manchester United and Burnley man Chris Eagles saw a half-volley from 25 yards held onto alertly by Doyle, before Jordy Hiwula fired in a hopeful drive from about 20 yards out at the other end that took a slight nick and behind for another corner as the tally began to grow.
City began to become a growing threat in the final third and after James Meredith did brilliantly to come forward down the left and get into the box, he found Law who saw a shot blocked and come back to the Australian. The ball was then played out to Billy Clarke but the striker's shot went agonisingly wide of the post.
Shortly afterwards, Cullen had a rising drive from just inside the box go inches away from nestling into the top corner after Clarke had cut the ball back to him.
Minutes later, Cullen kept the pressure on Vale by locking the ball in their box with a header, Charlie Wyke flicked on into the path of Hiwula but the striker's acrobatic volley went comfortably wide of the target.
Vale looked a threat on the counter attack at times despite City's growing presence in the game, and Anton Forrester tested Doyle with a firm drive from 15 yards out after he had been picked out by Jerome Thomas.
The chances were flowing for City but they still couldn’t find the lead; Hiwula beat the offside trap but checked back away from Callum Guy before seeing a shot saved by Fasan.
Hiwula slipped as he looked to attack Wyke’s cross into the six-yard box before Clarke saw a first time drive go over the bar with the players queuing up to try and turn Wyke’s dangerous low cross into the goal.
It was surely a matter of time before City would take the lead, and that they did just that a few minutes before the break.
Thomas tripped Tony McMahon just outside the box to earn himself booking, and the latter delivered a superb cross to the far post where Vincelot was on hand to power a header into the back of the net from close range to give Stuart McCall’s side a deservedly lead.
The hosts had a chance to level things up before the break when Forrester fizzed the ball across the box and into the path of JJ Hooper but the forward fired wide from a good position.
City started the second half looking to take a firm control of the game with a second goal, and it perhaps could’ve come in the opening few minutes.
Hiwula connected with Meredith’s shot but saw a wayward attempt go over the bar before Clarke tested Fasan with a vicious low drive from at least 25 yards out shortly afterwards.
Forrester was involved again for Vale with their first real chance of the second half; the imposing forward was played in behind and he cut inside Nathaniel Knight-Percival before a block tackle coming in from Rory McArdle forced a good save from Doyle.
The hosts sensed a chance to equalise and the did just that with the next opening in the game. City could not clear danger initially with Guy forward from right back and it was Forrester who played the ball across the six-yard box where Hooper was on hand to force the ball past Doyle and into the net.
Alex Gilliead was brought on for Billy Clarke as City reverted back to a conventional 4-4-2 formation, and the Newcastle loanee played a big part in Wyke putting the Bantams back on front.
He beat his marker to a loose ball and clipped a delightful cross into the box but the City number nine glanced a header wide of the target.
Guy escaped the attention of Cullen before hammering a shot inches over the bar from 20 yards out, while Kiko blazed a shot over the bar in a promising position after doing brilliantly to move away from Gilliead and into a pocket of space just outside the box later in the half.
Jones made his return from injury, replacing Law to a chorus of jeers from the home crowd. The January signing from Birmingham City, of course, spent the first half of the season on loan at Vale Park.
Having being on the pitch just two minutes, he latched onto Gilliead’s cross in the box and slammed the ball into the bottom corner.
The Bantams perhaps rode their luck a little late on with Danny Pugh slicing a shot wide of the target from the edge of the box three minutes into five added on at the end of the game but they held on for a much-needed victory on the road.
The first Bradford City league win at Vale Park since September 2008.