Vale can reign at Parade
Eight games, 16 points. It's a positive start no matter who you are and what level you're playing at, but Bradford and Port Vale will be approaching Saturday's game at Valley Parade in slightly contrasting mental states after events of the past seven days, and we reckon the visitors will be more grounded and determined.
The two clubs have been languishing in the basement for longer than they care to acknowledge - the Bantams are now in their sixth season since relegation, the Valiants in their fifth - but early results suggest both have good reason to target an automatic promotion tilt.
For Bradford, the realisation is still raw. Every summer, they do a grand job of convincing themselves they should be taken seriously but seldom does the optimism stretch beyond a few outings. This time around, they have amassed more points come the end of September than the last two seasons combined.
However, excitement hit a new level last Saturday. The Bantams were thoroughly professional in their 2-0 win at Oxford, scoring both goals from set pieces and prompting Phil Parkinson to lift the lid on their intentions based on what he considered to be a momentous result.
But it was a conclusion undermined somewhat by the remarks of opposite number Chris Wilder, who bemoaned his team "playing without any sort of confidence" on the back of four straight defeats. Parkinson's desire to whip up confidence is admirable, but it could yet be misplaced.
The fall from grace nearly happened in midweek as Bradford came from two goals down to beat Burton 3-2 in extra time of a Capital One Cup third round tie. Of course, such heroics will do confidence no harm but Parkinson's instructions for the players to go out and celebrate on Tuesday night will do little to guard against complacency either. A trip to Wigan awaits in the last 16.
All of which is a far cry from how the Vale players must have felt since their last outing. Micky Adams' men were all geared up for a top-of-the-table clash against Gillingham last Saturday, only for their hopes of usurping the Kent club at the summit to be dashed by a curveball that left them two goals down inside 25 minutes.
The Valiants' defence had surely prepared to play against the Gills' eight-goal top scorer Danny Kedwell, instead they were torn apart by the blistering pace of debutant Robbie Findley, the United States international having joined on a month-long loan from Nottingham Forest the day before.
It was a masterstroke from Martin Allen to secure the services of such a prodigious talent and unleash it with scant warning but Adams wasn't looking for excuses afterwards and we should back the experienced Vale boss to turn that humbling experience to his advantage.
Adams had named the same side for ninth game in a row against Gillingham but now he's expected to shake things up as he looks to get a reaction in a match that could have equal bearing on the promotion picture come the end of the campaign. You can get odds of 11/5 about the visitors and that looks decent value in light of their potential greater focus and fitness.
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