Port Vale v Walsall
At Vale Park
Saturday 9th August 2014
Attendance: 7,050 including 1,145 visiting supporters
It was a game of two halves as far as Vale were concerned as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Vale Park by Walsall in the opening league fixture of the season.
Vale had much the better of things in the opening forty five minutes and went in leading at the interval thanks to a 26th minute strike from Tom Pope.
Vale struggled to boss things so easily in the second half, however, and Walsall deservedly equalised in the 59th minute through Tom Bradshaw and looked quite capable of getting a second, forcing Vale into a reshuffle.
Sam Johnson won the battle of the ‘keepers as last season’s Player of the Year, Chris Neal, was forced to settle for a place on the bench.
On loan Fredieric Veseli was favoured over Adam Yates at right back, whilst Ben Williamson was hoping to re-create his pre-season goal-scoring form as partner to Tom Pope up front.
Vale were having much of the play without causing the visitors too many problems, but that all changed on 25 minutes when Vale took the lead.
GOAL:Louis Dodds couldn’t quite get a clean touch on Mark Marshall’s low angled cross from the left and the ball escaped the attentions of two Walsall defenders, but TOM POPE slammed the ball home at the far post to open his and Vale’s account for the season.
Ashley Grimes had an opportunity to put the visitors on level terms but fired over the bar from 20 yards in a rare Walsall threat on goal.
Former Vale loanee, James O’Connor, had the ball in the Vale net in the 41st minute but the referee had already stopped play after seeing the flag raised for offside.
Vale almost grabbed a second goal a minute later when Marshall again got to the by-line – his cross was met by a first time shot from Louis Dodds, but his effort was just wide of the far post.
Vale began the second half pressing hard and were not too far off again when Michael O’Connor’s 20 yard free kick whistled past O’Donnell’s right hand post.
GOAL: A 25 yard shot from Ashley Grimes flew over the bar, but a minute later TOM BRADSHAW levelled the score after Vale filed to clear their lines.
It was ‘backs to the wall’ as far as Vale were concerned with the Saddlers pressing for a second goal and the home side were getting increasingly frustrated.
The situation prompted Micky Adams to make a change in the 74th minute with Steve Jennings coming on in place of Louis Dodds.
Sam Johnson produced the save of the match on 77 minutes, flinging himself to his left to push away a rasping drive from Walsall left back Andy Taylor.
In the 85th minute Vale made a further two substitutions, Chris Robertson and Michael Brown coming on to replace Freddie Veseli and Chris Lines.
Tom Pope, 26
Tom Bradshaw, 59
PORT VALE: Sam Johnson, Freddie Veseli, Richard Duffy, Ryan McGivern, Carl Dickinson, Chris Lines, Michael O’Connor, Ben Williamson, Louis Dodds, Mark Marshall, Tom Pope. SUBS: Chris Neal, Chris Robertson, Chris Birchall, Adam Yates, Michael Brown, Steve Jennings, Ryan Lloyd
WALSALL: Richard O’Donnell, Andy Taylor, James O’Connor, Paul Downing, Adam Chambers, Tom Bradshaw, Romaine Sawyers, James Baxendale, Mal Benning, James Chambers, Ashley Grimes. SUBS: Craig MacGillivray, Dean Holden, Reece Flanagan, Kieron Morris, Amadou Bakayoko, Liam Kinsella, Billy Clifford.