Neil Aspin reflects on the defeat to Crawley Town

Neil Aspin was left frustrated on Saturday afternoon as he watched his Port Vale side fall to defeat against Crawley Town, a result which ended a three-game unbeaten run.

The Valiants had pulled themselves ahead as Tom Pope scored his 18th goal of the season following a bright start, but Crawley were given a penalty and Joshua Payne converted from 12 yards to level proceedings before half-time.

It was the hosts who continued to press in the second half, but despite their efforts, an unfortunate Nathan Smith own goal after 82 minutes meant that Aspin's men were left empty handed.

"I feel really frustrated and disappointed - not with the players because I think they gave it their all - but in terms of bad luck and decisions, you couldn't get a worse game than today," the manager said, reflecting on the afternoon.

"The woodwork denied us as well and we should've been more than the one goal up, but then we get a penalty given against us.

"We then get our best player in Monty going off injured, then it's an own goal that proves to be the winner for Crawley, so I don't think you can have a set of circumstances that go against you as much as they have today.

"There is real frustration, but I have got no criticisms of the players. I am really down tonight and it's the worst I've felt, but next week we will be ready to go again."

Aspin was quick to praise the application of his team during the match, particularly in the opening exchanges where they deservedly took the lead, but he believes the margin should have been wider.

Pope hit the post with a powerful header two minutes before he eventually opened the scoring, and the manager insists that having the striker back out on the pitch is a huge boost for the club.

He said: "We were playing well and we could've been more than one goal up, but if ever a decision killed us, it was that penalty.

"Tom is essential. He scores a lot of our goals and he has the biggest percentage of them, but I was worried he was going to get sent off today and we can't afford to be without him."

On the injury to Cristian Montano and the performance of Sam Hornby, he added: "Losing Monty was a massive blow and it contributed today because their right-back was getting forward. 

"Ben Whitfield had ran himself into the ground tracking back so we had to make a substitution there, but unfortunately it was down that side where the goal came from. I'm disappointed with that, but not with the efforts of the players.

"Sam had to come off his line on a few occasions, diving at the players' feet. Like all goalkeepers, the more he plays the more experience he will get and he has done well in the games he has had - that is all he can do."