Port Vale’s final game of 2017 was set up to be the toughest test that Neil Aspin would have faced during his time at the helm of the Burslem club, but the final score will say something completely different.
Vale started the half the brighter team with their first sight of goal coming only three minutes in, as Nathan Smith smashed his effort high and wide from 10-yards following a deft flick-on from Ben Whitfield.
The visitors, as expected, fought back immediately as James Justin’s classy chip over the Vale back four found Harry Cornick. However, the Hatters number 14 was found in an offside position.
That was to be the only threat that Luton had caused Vale in the first half, as the Valiants went on to somewhat control the balance of play.
It was clear for all in attendance that the Vale were up for the fixture and were not going to rollover for the league’s highest scorers, who shipped five past Swindon Town only four days previous.
Cristian Montano had a sighting of goal as a cross was flashed in from the right. The ball fell to Montano on the edge of the box who shifted his footing accordingly, but his effort was deflected by one of thee recovering Luton defenders.
Luton had a rare sighting of the goal with 20-minutes on the clock, as Danny Hylton tried to play in Perry Mpanzu who would have had an open goal to pass into, if it wasn’t for a superb bit of defending from Nathan Smith to intercept then smash away.
And it took the next attack for the deadlock to be broken as Vale took the lead in the 22nd minute from a weaving run from Ben Whitfield. The tricky playmaker got himself to the by-line and in enough space to smash the ball across goal. After a spell of ping-pong in the six-yard box, the ball found itself in the back of the net via John Mullins.
Montano had another sight of goal, as once again, the ball fell to the winger on the edge of the box following some neat interplay between the Vale forwards. His left-footed strike stung the gloves of Marek Stech whilst diving to his right. The ball found it’s way to Whitfield who dinked a ball to the back post, but was hooked away from danger.
Vale could have and perhaps should have gone into the break with a two goal lead as with five minutes left to play in the first half, Montano hung up a cross for Tom Pope to attack. Pope got up higher than anyone else in the Luton box and powered his header just wide of the post.
However, Vale were causing an upset and went into half time with a one goal lead.
HALF-TIME: Port Vale 1 – 0 Luton Town
The first bit of action in the second half came from the visitors as James Justin fired in a shot. It was Hylton who played the full-back in after bringing the ball down in the box and Justin’s shot was caught by Boot at the front post.
Minutes later Vale went up the other end immediately and carved out another good chance. Montano was in acres of space on the left, beat his man and took it to the by-line. The Colombian then cut the ball back which was aimed for Whitfield but John Mullins got there first and cleared the ball for a throw-in. From the throw-in, Montano fired a shot from the left side of the box that flew inches over Stech’s bar.
As the hour mark was breached, Luton’s defence was for the second time in the afternoon and after letting the visitor’s off in the first half, Pope was not about to fluff his lines again.
Whitfield chipped a delicate ball over the visitors’ last defender and the ball dropped to Pope in acres of space. The big man had time to take a touch, tease the ‘keeper and then slot past him into the bottom corner.
In the 68th minute, the Hatters did have the ball in the back of the net but it was scrubbed off for offside. This only seemed to be a blip in Vale’s flawless performance though as their third of the afternoon soon followed.
Tom pope pounced on a loose ball and had Whitfield up with him in support. Pope teased the goalkeeper who rushed out and waited for Whitfield to get back onside. Once he was, Pope rolled in Whitfield who had time enough to take a touch and pass into the net.
Vale were massively on top and were carving through the Luton defence at will. Tom Pope had chance to grab himself another, as he was bearing down on goal. Just as he was about to pull the tripper, the ball looped up off the turf. Given the halt in momentum, Pope turned back and played Worrall in down the right whose cross beat everyone in the box.
However, Pope soon had another chance for his second of the afternoon and duly obliged.
Worrall looped a header over Stech in the Luton goal which Pope saw cannon off the back post. He then adjusted his footing and shot goalward only to see his effort blocked on the line, but the ball made it's way back to him. He then powered a header into the front post, which, thanks to confirmation from the linesman, gave Vale their fourth goal of the afternoon.
Vale in the end, ran out commanding winners against the league leaders, which saw Luton Town lose their second game on the road this season.
FULL-TIME: Port Vale 4 - 0 Luton Town
Port Vale: Boot, Davis, Smith, Gunning (57), Pugh, Kay, Tonge, Montano, Harness, Whitfield (75), Pope © (87)
SUBS: Lainton, Denton, Anderson (57), Worrall (75), Turner, Forrester, Barnett (87)
Luton Town: Stech, Justin, Potts, Mullins, Hylton, Cornick (67), Rea, Mpanzu, D’Ath (54), Lee (54), Sheehan (C)
SUBS: Cook, Shinnie (67), Berry (54), Collins (54), Gambin, Shea, Famewo
Attendance: 5,523 (1,175 Visitors)