Vale turned the game around inside the first half and guarded a one-goal advantage to make it nine unbeaten with two games left of the season.
Clayton Donaldson initially gave Bradford the lead as he stabbed home from close range in the opening quarter of an hour. The Valiants answered back through Theo Robinson as Luke Joyce’s ball was played through the Bradford defence to Robinson who made no mistake just outside the six-yard box.
Vale scored what proved to be the winner just past the half hour mark, when Nathan Smith ventured into the penalty area and was infringed, sending him to the ground with Benjamin Speedie pointing to the spot. Tom Conlon was not missing the chance to get his tenth of the season as he stepped up and waited for Sam Hornby to commit to a side before placing it down the middle.
Darrell Clarke was pleased with the work rate his players put into the game especially when they went a goal behind. The run of clean sheets came to an end but the team did well to preserve the lead and leave the visitors frustrated, not allowing them to have many clear cut opportunities at goal.
“Really chuffed for the players, a really hot day out there. The energy, the commitment and the pleasing thing with that is we hadn’t gone a goal down in that run.
“I was waiting for that reaction where everything’s going well for you, players are getting their deserved pats on the back. Everyone’s getting carried away which they shouldn’t but then to react when something hits you like that to come back.”
He mentioned that a few players were unable to participate in yesterday’s game due to mild injuries, allowing other players the chance for a start. Danny Whitehead was picked out as someone who took his opportunity well before coming off on the hour mark, showing the flexibility in the side to make these changes but still see out games.
“Yeah there’s a few slight knocks, a few injuries. That’s the only fit 18 available today, these things happen. I thought Danny Whitehead did great for 60 minutes, fantastic. Players that came in, I changed things back from Tuesday night and the common denominator is that we’re still winning games which is great.
“I don’t put my players out in the cold, I’ve never done that as a manager, and I never will do that as a manager. Yes, managers will always have different players to pick but the door’s always open. The line of communication is always open, players are going to be frustrated not to play. I get that but I’m not a believer in closing doors on players.”
Conlon was again in the headlines for Vale after scoring the winning penalty, not quite as eye catching as the strike from inside the centre circle on Tuesday night but every bit as important. Clarke commented on the skipper being a born leader but made clear that it was the whole squad that was responsible for this dramatic upturn in form.
“Attacking midfielder and captain leading by example but Tom will be the first to tell you. I’ve just had a conversation with my squad of players, there’s no I in team. It’s togetherness, it's people coming together and off the bench to make that impact."