Port Vale v Preston North End
Saturday 17th April 2015
Attendance: 7,210 including 2,485 visiting supporters
Vale put in another sterling performance against a very good Preston North End side to take a point, and a well-deserved point at that, despite going down to ten men with more than half an hour to play.
Daniel Johnson fired the visitors ahead in the 11th minute, but Michael O’Connor levelled from the penalty spot just seven minutes after the break.
The visitors were then awarded a penalty of their own, and Richard Duffy was shown a red card for the offence just to rub salt in Vale’s wounds. Joe Garner fired the visitors back in front from the spot.
The drama wasn’t over, however, and with five minutes remaining Michael O’Connor was bundled over in the box and smashed home the resulting penalty kick to earn the Vale a point.
Rob Page decided to name an unchanged starting eleven for the visit of a Preston North End side chasing automatic promotion, with the only change coming on the bench.
Tom Pope was forced to sit out the midweek game at Glanford Park, suffering with a virus, but he was back on the bench at the expense of Chris Robertson.
In a high tempo start to the game it was the visitors who almost drew first blood when Joe Garner slipped the ball into the path of Jermaine Beckford, deep inside the Vale box.
As the striker shaped to shoot, just six yards from goal, Richard Duffy came sliding in to take the ball off his feet and Preston had to make do with a corner kick.
There was another scare for the Vale three minutes later when Chris Neal was forced to go full length to touch a shot from Garner onto the outside of the post.
GOAL:North End continued to press at every opportunity, and they took the lead in the 12th minute when DANIEL JOHNSON fired home through a crowded penalty area from just inside the box.
Vale were struggling to make their mark on the game, but they continued to work hard and battle for every ball and make it difficult for the visitors, who, as an attacking force looked extremely capable.
It seemed that almost every ball knocked forward by the Vale came straight back at them, meaning even more defensive work was needed by an already under-pressure defence.
To Vale’s credit, through hard work and endeavour they were limited the visitors to very few goal scoring opportunities in a match that was not for the faint-hearted.
There were no holds barred and tackles were flying in all over the pitch, with the two sides showing equal determination and passion for the game.
Whether everything that went on was within the framework of the laws of the game will have been discussed by many at half time, but generally speaking, the referee was handling things well.
Trailing at half time by that single goal from the visitors, Vale were still in a good position to take something from the game.
Vale made a change at half time with Tom Pope coming on to replace Achille Campion up front as Vale went looking for an equaliser.
Callum Robinson wasn’t too far off the target with a curling long range shot early in the second half – just a reminder for Vale that, although they were looking to pull a goal back, there was plenty to do still at the other end of the pitch.
But Vale got the break they had been looking for when Preston defender Tom Clarke wrestled Tom Pope to the ground inside the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
GOAL: MICHAEL O’CONNORlined up to take the penalty kick and smashed the ball into the corner of the net, with the ‘keeper going to his right and the ball the other way.
The visitors appealed for handball just seven minutes later and Vale defender Richard Duffy was given his marching orders for the offence and a penalty awarded.
GOAL: JOE GARNERplaced the ball on the spot, took his time then smashed the ball right don the middle, with Chris Neal diving to his right.
Vale couldn’t afford to concede a third goal and so made a substitution to patch up the now depleted defence. On came Adam Yates, with Louis Dodds being the unfortunate on to make way.
It was always going to be difficult even with eleven men, but now with ten, Vale were going to have to be extra vigilant, whilst being prepared to take risks at the same time.
Vale made their third change when, in the 76th minute, Ben Williamson was taken off to make way for Mohamed Coulibaly.
GOAL:Vale were given the chance to level the scores for a second time when the referee awarded a third penalty after MICHAEL O’CONNOR was bundled over inside the box and the Irishman smashed the ball home from the spot to level the scores.
PORT VALE: Chris Neal, Fredi Veseli, Richard Duffy, Neill Collins, Carl Dickinson, Louis Dodds, Michael Brown, Michael O’Connor, Mark Marshall, Ben Williamson, Achille Campion. SUBS: Sam Johnson, Adam Yates, Chris Birchall, Tommy O’Sullivan, Mohamed Coulibaly, Colin Daniel, Tom Pope.
PRESTON NORTH END:Sam Johnstone, Scott Laird, Tom Clarke, Bailey Wright, Jermaine Beckford, Paul Gallagher, Joe Garner, John Welsh, Paul Huntington, Daniel Johnson, Callum Robinson.SUBS: Chris Humphrey, Neil Kilkenny, Kevin Davies, Callum Woods, Andy Little, Thorsten Stuckmann, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
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