LEFT-BACK Carl McHugh ended Bradford City’s 13-match victory drought with a stoppage-time header at Valley Parade.
Port Vale had offered stubborn resistance previously and, with time running out, captain Gary Jones took a corner on the right-hand side and McHugh jubilantly headed past goalkeeper Chris Neal, who had pulled off several fine saves.
City manager Phil Parkinson voiced the hope that his players would gain a much-needed confidence boost against a Port Vale side entertaining hopes of reaching the play-offs, while Jones had warned it was time for players to wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Both men got what they were looking for. The Bantams have made a habit of conceding the first goal, but they made a bright start and James Hanson was only denied inside the first minute by a smart save from Neal.
However, when Chris Lines spotted City goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin off his line, the Vale midfielder’s long-distance lob was headed out from under his own bar by Rory McArdle.
Impressive winger Adam Reach forced Neal into a back-bending save after Vale struggled to clear an out-swinging corner from Jones and City had their second scare as Tom Pope played in Doug Loft, but McLaughlin saved.
With Jones and Reach driving them forward, the Bantams were the more effective unit in the first half and Andrew Davies was inches off target with a far-post header from Jones’s probing free-kick.
Loft had to clear over his own crossbar while under heavy pressure from Aaron Mclean and Vale were put under further strain, only for promising young central defenders Jack Grimmer and Joe Davis to slam the door shut until McHugh’s late winner.
Bradford City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, McHugh, Bennett (Thompson 71), Doyle, Jones, Reach, Hanson, Mclean (Gray 90). Unused substitutes: Jameson, Dolan, Yeates, McBurnie, Atkinson.
Port Vale: Neal, Yates, Grimmer, Davis, Dickinson, Loft, Griffith, Lines, Jones, Pope, Williamson (Hugill 73). Unused substitutes: Johnson, Dodds, Myrie-Williams, Tomlin, Birchall, Knott.
Referee: M Brown (Humberside).