Friday 29th March 2013At Vale Park
Port Valev Cheltenham Town
Attendance: 5867 including 344 visiting supporters
PORT VALE:Chris Neal, Adam Yates, Rob Taylor, Anthony Griffith, John McCombe, Louis Dodds, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Tom Pope, Liam Chilvers, Lee Hughes, Tom Pope
SUBS: Sam Johnson, Chris Shuker, Ben Williamson, Calvin Andrew, Ryan Lloyd, Richard Duffy, Darren Purse
CHELTENHAM: Scott Brown, Billy Jones, Steve Elliott, Marlon Pack, Jermain McGlashan, Russell Penn, Paul Benson, Sido Jombati, Kaid Mohamed, Jason Taylor, Michael Hector
SUBS: Keith Lowe, Darren Carter, Sam Deering, Darryl Duffy, Connor Roberts, Shaun Harrad, Byron Harrison
Micky Adams made just the one change from the side that recorded a win at York in Vale’s last outing, with Daniel Jones returning to action. Skipper Doug Loft was unavailable for selection due to family reasons.
There was no sign of nerves from the Vale players once the match got underway and it was the home side who were looking to get forward at every opportunity in the opening stages of the game.
Vale were first to the ball in every department, showing a determination to get the job done and dusted and they thought they had made the breakthrough in the 11th minute.
Lee Hughes headed home via the underside of the crossbar, only for the goal to be rules out for offside. Hughes was to play no further part in the game as he had tweaked a hamstring steering his header into the net and he was taken off, replaced by Ben Williamson.
GOAL:Vale took the lead in the 19th minute when TOM POPE got up to head home a left wing cross from Daniel Jones. There was a mixture of relief and elation after Pope finally ended his barren spell to net his 28th of the season.
Vale came so close to adding a second five minutes later when Myrie-Williams twisted and turned, weaving his way into the box to set up an opportunity for Williamson, but the Robins’ ‘keeper Scott Brown was quick to react, smothering the ball at the Vale striker’s feet.
The home side were beginning to cause the visitors all types of problems and Cheltenham looked as though they might capitulate under the intense pressure.
Cheltenham managed to weather the storm, with Vale unable to sustain he pressure and before too long Vale were called upon to do a bit of defending of their own.
Vale were soon in attacking mode again and it was great to see Myrie-Williams back to his best, causing the visitors all sorts of problems every time he was on the ball.
If Vale thought they were in total command, then they were handed a reminder there were two sides still very much in the game when Paul Benson saw his close range header come off the Vale crossbar with half time approaching.
The visitors made two changes at the start of the second half. Billy Jones was replaced by former Vale loanee Keith Lowe and Byron Harrison replaced Jason Taylor.
GOAL:It didn’t take Harrison long to make his mark. He raced through on goal and although Chris Neal got down to make the save, he couldn’t keep hold of the ball and KAID MOHAMED was on hand to prod home 72 seconds inside the second half.
GOAL:Vale looked all over the place as Cheltenham continued to look the better of the two sides and in the 54th minute they deservedly took the lead when PAUL BENSON latched on to the loose ball after Neal did well to keep out Michael Hector’s header, bundling home from almost on the line
GOAL:The visitors could only manage to hold on to their lead for three minutes’ however, as TOM POPE slammed home the equaliser from ten yards to lift Vale Park once again.
The game had burst into life once again and the visitors went exceptionally close to regaining the lead when Harrison beat Chris Neal, only for John McCombe to hook the ball off the line.
Louis Dodds went close with a half volley as the play switched from one end to the other – it was a great advert for League Two football if ever there was one.
Both sides were totally committed to attack and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to predict what the outcome was going to be.
GOAL:It was advantage Vale again in the 74th minute when TOMPOPE was sent clear of the Cheltenham defence by Dodds and the League Two Player of the Year kept his cool to slot home his and Vale’s third goal.
Vale made a change in the 82nd minute when Calvin Andrew replaced Rob Taylor – Micky Adams probably feeling Andrew’s height would come in handy in defensive set pieces.
All credit to the visitors who were having a real go in the final stages of the game, forcing Vale to defend franticly at times as they sought to hang on to their precious lead.