Vale v Swindon
Without a win in 2017? You wouldn’t have thought it as Vale put on a great performance to take the three points in a game billed as a ‘must-win’ match against a Swindon Town side one place above the Vale going into the game.
When Vale went behind in the 35th minute there were a few worried faces amongst the home supporters, but 90 seconds later Chris Eagles put the smiles back on their faces when he put the Valiants level.
JJ Hooper then put Vale in front before Anton Forrester missed the chance to extend Vale’s lead when he hit a spot kick over the bar, but Hooper’s second goal of the game later gave Vale some breathing space.
Luke Norris pulled a goal back in the 90th minutes, but Vale were good value for their first win since the end of December, giving everybody something believe in.
Having picked up injuries in Vale’s pale were without both Danny Pugh and Jerome Thomas when they lined up against Swindon Town in an important game for both sides, given their respective positions in the league table.
Scott Tanser didn’t make the starting eleven, with the returning Kiko being favoured in the left back spot, while Kjell Knops returned from suspension to play alongside Nathan Smith at the heart of the Vale defence.
That meant Ben Purkiss was able to switch back to his favoured position a right back, whilst Callum Guy lined up in midfield, where he was joined by Olamide Shodipo.
If there were any doubts about Vale’s confidence as a team going into the gam, they were dispelled almost immediately as Vale, on the front foot right from the kick off, pressed high up the pitch.
Despite the pressure from the home side it was the visitors who created the first goalscoring opportunity when Brad Barry took advantage of a slip by Kiko to make his wasy down the Swindon right.
He slipped the ball inside for James Brophy to try a shot on goal, but thankfully, from a Vale perspective, he failed to hit the target when he ought to have done a lot better.
It was a warning side for Michael Brown’s men. You couldn’t afford to get their concentration drop and perhaps just as importantly, they needed to be more ruthless in front of the Swindon goal.
Yet just moments later Nicky Ajose managed to peel away from his marker to find room for a shot, but he was slightly off balance and could only manage to slice it wide of the target.
Sam Foley put a shot over the crossbar at the other end as Vale went in search of an opener, but for all their promise, the home side didn’t give visiting ‘keeper Lawrence Vigouroux too much to do.
Swindon were close to getting their noses in front in the 28th minute when when Jonathan Obiki got up well to put in a powerful 12 yards header in at the Vale goal, but Sam Foley was well positioned to make the block and subsequent clearance.
Vale had created several half chances at the other end up to that point, but couldn’t seem to hit the target, leaving Vigouroux little more than a spectator.
Sam Foley was his usual busy self, more than willing to work himself into the ground, closing down quickly when not in possession and running at goal with the ball.
GOAL: But Vale went behind in the 35th minute when a hopeful 20 yard deflected shot from Nicky Ajose caught Leo Fasan wrong footed and it trickled into the net.
GOAL: Vale were not content to sit back and feel sorry for themselves and they were back in it a minute and a half later – CHRIS EAGLES getting the final touch from close range.
When Olamide Shodipo got brought down just after the interval as he raced in from the right, there didn’t seem to be too much danger.
GOAL: Kiko lined up the free kick and hit it towards the near post and JJ HOOPER got that vital touch that sent the ball past Vigouroux, via his left upright, and Vale had the lead in the 50th minute.
Three minutes later Vale had a perfect opportunity to put some daylight between the two sides when Rossi Branco upended Eagles inside the box and the referee immediately pointed towards the spot.
Anton Forrester placed the ball on the penalty spot, but with the crowd expecting goal celebrations, Forrester fired high over the crossbar.
Vale almost got a third goal regardless, when just seconds later Sam Foley hit a beauty from all of thirty five yards, which Vigouroux did well to touch around his right upright.
Vale were all of a sudden looking more like a top six side, brimming with confidence and pushing forward with determination and belief.
There was still a long way to go, but the danger was complacency or a lack of concentration at the back, if Vale were going to hold on to their lead and see the game out if they didn’t get the third goal they were looking for.
On 70 minutes the home side made a change when Sam Kelly came off the bench as a direct replacement for Alamide Shodipo down the Vale right.
Vale made a second change in the 79th minutes when Chris Eagles went off to a superb round of applause form the home crowd, giving Billy Reeves his home debut, coming off the bench for his second taste of first team action.
On 85 minutes Swindon found themselves down to ten men. Sam Foley put the ball through for JJ Hooper to run on to and as he was about to run into the Robins’ box, he was upended by Brad Barry, who was promptly red carded.
GOAL: As if to rub it in, JJ HOOPER took the free kick himself and hit a superb curling shot into the top right hand corner of the net, giving Vigouroux no chance of getting to it.
GOAL: Swindon substitute Luke Norris pulled a goal back in the 90th to ensure a nail-biting finish, with five minutes added on by the match officials.
PORT VALE: Leo Fasan, Ben Purkiss, Kjell Knops, JJ Hooper, Sam Foley, Anton Forrester, Kiko, Nathan Smith, Callum Guy, Chris Eagles, Olamide Shodipo. SUBS: Deniz Mehmet, Sam Kelly, Paulo Tavares, Dan Turner, Scott Tanser, Billy Reeves, James Gibbons.
SWINDONTOWN: Lawrence Vigouroux, Nathan Thompson, Bradon Ormonde Ottewill, Ben Gladwin, Jonathan Obika, James Brophy, Nicky Ajose, Charlie Colkett, Rohan Ince, Brad Barry, Raphael Rossi Branco. SUBS: Conor Thomas, Anton Rodgers, John Goddard, Will Henry, Dion Conroy, Lloyd Jones, Luke Norris