Nathan Smith headed home his first goal of the season to hand Port Vale a belated Christmas present in the form of three points at home to Coventry City on Boxing Day. The Valiants are now four games unbeaten in Sky Bet League Two as the resurgence under Neil Aspin continues.
Vale made a bright start as they looked to make an early breakthrough in front of the home supporters, but following some neat build-up play down the right, Tom Pope’s low cross towards Tyrone Barnett was hooked away from danger on three minutes.
Despite the early pressure from the hosts, Coventry almost fashioned an opening of their own six minutes later, but Jack Grimmer’s cross was too long for Maxime Biamou and Joe Davis was able to clear upfield.
Up the other end, the Valiants looked dangerous once more on ten minutes as Ben Whitfield and Marcus Harness combined well. Antony Kay’s eventual effort then took a deflection before dropping just wide of Lee Burge’s far post from 20 yards.
With 19 minutes played, a Coventry attack found its way to Grimmer on the right flank and he drilled a cross in towards Biamou, but before the French striker could make contact, Gavin Gunning got across brilliantly to intercept and hook the ball to safety.
Marc McNulty looked to give his side the lead on 26 minutes as he carried the ball towards the Vale area, but after cutting inside, his effort from 20 yards flew over the crossbar. On the half hour mark, a pinpoint cross from Ben Whitfield found Pope in the box and the striker controlled well, but he was unable to get a shot away under pressure.
Vale then created the best chance of the first half on 37 minutes as Michael Tonge curled a wide free-kick into the area. Amongst a crowd of players, Whitfield managed to find space to direct a header on target from 12 yards, only to be denied by Burge who got down well to make a save.
Following the restart, it was the home side who almost opened the scoring just three minutes into the second half. Substitute Cristian Montano hung a cross up for a teammate to attack and it was met by Harness, but he couldn’t direct it under the bar from close range.
With plenty of noise coming from the stands, Vale continued to pressurise their opponents, but the Coventry defence stood firm. The Sky Blues then went close following a swift counter-attack on 58 minutes as McNulty flashed a low cross towards the front post. Grimmer then poked the ball towards goal, but Boot reacted well to divert it wide.
Just two minutes later, Vale almost capitalised on some miscommunication in the away back line with Whitfield and Pope closing down Burge who saw the ball ricochet kindly for him to clear. Coventry then saw a penalty appeal turned down up the other end on 62 minutes as McNulty went down inside the area.
Another neat bit of play carved open the next clear-cut chance of the afternoon for Vale on 73 minutes. Montano played the ball into the path of Harness and he had time to set his sights on goal, but his effort from 20 yards skewed wide of the post with Burge scrambling.
The Valiants didn’t have to wait much longer to take a deserved lead, however, as Smith scored his first goal of the season to hand his side a one-goal advantage with ten minutes left to play. Tonge and Harness played a neat one-two before the latter picked out Smith with a cross and the defender looped a header over Burge.
Port Vale: Boot, Davis, Smith, Gunning, Pugh, Kay, Tonge, Harness, Whitfield (Denton 67), Barnett (Montano 45), Pope ©.
Unused Substitutes: Lainton, Kelly, de Freitas, Turner, Forrester.
Coventry City: Burge, Grimmer, McDonald, Willis (Ponticelli 84), Davies, Stokes, Doyle ©, Shipley (Beavon 84), Bayliss, Biamou (Nazon 69), McNulty.
Unused Substitutes: O’ Brien, Haynes, Maycock, Stevenson.
Attendance: 7,127 (1,698 away).