Port Vale v Burton Albion
Saturday 19th March 2016
At Vale Park
Attendance: 6,157 including 858 visiting supporters.
Vale’s chances of finishing in the play-offs were severely dented as they fell to only their second home defeat of the season, with leaders Burton Albion edging that bit further to the League One title.
Vale trailed by two goals at the interval thanks to Lucas Akins’ 34th minute strike and an own goal from Anthony Grant on the stroke of half time, and unlike last weekend, they never recovered.
Mark Duffy extended the visitors’ lead four minutes into the second half to kill off any hopes of a Vale revival, and on the hour Callum Butcher added to Vale’s embarrassment when he added a fourth.
Vale made three changes for the visit of leader Burton Albion. Jak Alnwick returned in goal and in front of him Ryan McGivern started in the absence of Ryan Inniss.
Striker Ajay Leicth-Smith was ruled out and Theo Robinson, who started in his absence at Peterborough, had to make do with a place on the bench, Rob Page favouring JJ Hooper.
In a high tempo start to the game, Vale were looking quite impressive, though it soon became apparent they would have to be patient against a well-organised Brewers outfit.
Richard Duffy made contact with free kick taken on the left by Sam Foley on 8 minutes, but couldn’t quite steer his header on target.
Vale continued to press the league leaders deep inside their own half without causing Albion ‘keeper Jon McLaughlin too much concern, though Vale were John Mousinho, but from five yards out his fired over the bar.
There was a half chance for the Vale when Hooper managed to control a through ball from Michael O’Connor, bringing the ball down just outside the box, but he narrowly missed the target.
Both sides were managing to play a neat passing game, but the two defences stood firm, determined not to be breeched, and chances were few and far between.
Vale supporters were getting increasingly frustrated and the number of ‘fouls’ that went unpunished, yet the visitors seemed to get their fair share of decisions in similar circumstances.
Burton went close to taking the lead in the 31st minute when Butcher turned sharply on the edge of the Vale box to deliver a stinging drive, but Alnwick got down early to his left to touch the ball around the post.
GOAL:Three minutes later the visitors went one better when Tom Naylor spotted Lucas Akins in acres of space to the left. He duly played the ball across to him and the striker struck the opener from just inside the area.
Sam Foley almost pulled one back, striking the ball with venom from all of 25 yards, but Brewers’ ‘keeper McLaughlin wasn’t troubled as the ball flew over his crossbar.
In the 45th minute Richard Duffy was shown a yellow card for a trip on Stuart Beavon, but Vale were punished further when the free kick was taken.
GOAL:Burton’s Mark Duffy took the kick and Anthony Grant ‘s attempt to block when getting his head to the ball, just sent the ball looping over the head of Alnwick to double Albion’s lead.
Trailing 2-0 at the interval, Vale needed a comeback of similar proportions to the one in their previous game away to Peterborough United, with the league leaders unlikely allow that to happen.
GOAL:Any thoughts of a repeat of that were soon dispelled when, four minutes into the second half, Mark Duffy hit a superb strike from the right, across Alnwick and into the far corner.
If Albion’s lead had been in any way precarious up to that point, the third goal put them well in the driving seat and looking good value for the League One title.
Vale responded with a triple substitution in the 52nd minute. On came Matty Kennedy for Byron Moore, Sam Kelly for Sam Foley and Theo Robinson for Louis Dodds.
GOAL:Vale, who had been rock solid at home all season, conceded a fourth goal on the hour when Akins slotted the ball into the path of Butcher, who slotted home to signal the departure of hundreds of Vale fans with half an hour still to go.
Hooper was denied what would have been a consolation goal in the 75th minute when visiting ‘keeper McLaughlin came off his line and spread himself to make the save.
Matty Kennedy’s left foot volley from the edge of the box moments later didn’t trouble the ‘keeper as it was straight at him, but in truth, had either of those two shots gone in, it is unlikely it would have made too much difference to the result.
PORT VALE: Jak Alnwick, Ben Purkiss, Carl Dickinson, Ryan McGivern, Richard Duffy, Michael O’Connor, Louis Dodds, Sam Foley, JJ Hooper, Byron Moore, Anthony Grant. SUBS: Remie Streete, Chris Birchall, Matty Kennedy, Michael Brown, Sam Kelly, Ryan Boot, Theo Robinson
BURTON ALBION: Jon McLaughlin, Phil Edwards, John Mousinho, Stuart Beavon, Lucas Akins, Callum Butcher, Damien McCrory, Tom Naylor, Mark Duffy, Tom Flanagan, Hamza Choudhury. SUBS: Stephen Bywater, Shane Candsell-Sheriff, Callum Reilly, Robbie Weir, Marcus Myaers-Harness, Anthony Connor, Mason Bennett.