Saturday 30th November 2013
Walsall v Port ValeAt The Banks's Stadium
Attendance: 4,909 including 1,165 visiting supporters
WALSALL: Richard O'Donnell, Andy Taylor, Andy Butler, Adam Chambers, Sam Mantam, Milan Lalkovic,Craig Westcarr,Paul Downing, James Chambers, James Baxendale, Romaine Sawyers. SUBS: Ben Purkiss, Nicky Featherstone, Ashley Hemmings, Shane Lewis, Mal Benning, Troy Hewitt, Julian Grey
PORT VALE: Sam Johnson, Adam Yates, Chris Robertson, Richard Duffy, Carl Dickinson, Chris Birchall, Anthony Griffith, Chris Lines, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Gavin TOmlin, Tom Pope. SUBS: Ryan Boot, Liam Chilvers, Rob Taylor, Chris Shuker, Ben Williamson, Louis Dodds, Lee Hughes
Vale took three points away from home to Walsall for the first time in 66 years thanks to Tom Pope’s eight goal of the season and Gavin Tomlin’s first in a Vale shirt.
It left Vale in 8th place in the League One table, their highest league position since 2006.
Vale came in to the game making three changes to their starting eleven, the one being on everybody’s lips the inclusion of goalkeeper Sam Johnson.
Johnson made his Vale debut on the very same ground in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last season, scoring the winning goal in a penalty shoot-out.
Chris Neal injured a finger and his wrist at the end of Friday’s training session, giving Johnson the opportunity to make his Football League debut.
The other two changes to the Vale side were the inclusion of Gavin Tomlin for Ben Williamson and the return of Chris Birchall at the expense of Louis Dodds.
Vale began the game on the front foot, having much the better of things, but with little to show for their efforts.
Tom Pope’s 3rd minute header which dropped over the crossbar was about as good as it got, but Vale did have shouts for a penalty when a shot from Jennison Myrie-Williams was blocked inside the box.
GOAL:The home side enjoyed a spell in which they pressed a little, but it was Vale who pressed home their advantage in the 20th minute when Chris Birchall’s right wing cross came off Andy Butler and fell to TOM POPE, who rammed home his 8th goal of the season.
Vale continued to impress. Though seldom giving goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell anything to do, they were having plenty of possession and more often than not seemed to get a foot in just at the right time to prevent the home side from causing too many problems.
Walsall’s first real chance came in the 34th minute when former Vale loanee Romaine Sawyer watched his shot take a slight deflection to take it past Sam Johnson’s left post.
The home side ought to have levelled when the ball sat up nice for James Baxendale on the edge of the Vale box, but the Walsall man missed his kick completely, to the relief of the Vale defence.
Chris Lines could have doubled Vale’s lead with less than two minutes of the second half gone when he twisted his body to meet a left wing cross from Myrie-Williams, but couldn’t quite hit the target with his header.
As expected, the home side began to mount pressure of their own in the opening minutes of the second period and it was a case of all hands to the deck as Vale threw their bodies into the mix.
Sam Johnson was called upon to make a save, diving to his right to push a 30 yard drive from James Chambers around the post.
The home side couldn’t sustain their spell of pressure and the game soon settled into a familiar pattern, that of the opening forty five minutes.
GOAL:Vale deservedly increased their lead in the 65th minute. A long throw by Carl Dickinson wasn’t dealt with and the ball dropped to GAVIN TOMLIN, who, with his back to goal, turned sharply and hammered the ball into the top corner.
The home side looked visibly shaken and seldom looked like posing a threat from that point on, whilt Vale looked comfortable on the ball, playing some neat passing football.
On the odd occasion the Vale defence were breached, and it wasn’t too often, Sam Johnson mopped up, looking like he had played first team football for years.
Vale made a substitution in the 87th minute, Louis Dodds coming on for goalscorer Gavin Tomlin.