Luke Hannant’s first goal of the season proved decisive on Saturday afternoon as Port Vale edged past Crawley Town at Vale Park. The visitors did have their fair share of chances during a frantic second half, but Neil Aspin’s men dug in deep as a defensive unit to secure all three points.
During the early exchanges, it was the Valiants who looked the brighter of the two teams as they pressed for an opener. Ricky Miller almost found himself one-on-one with Glenn Morris just two minutes into the game, but Josh Doherty got across to challenge the striker and cut out the long ball.
With 12 minutes played, debutant Mitchell Clark carried the ball down the left wing to thread a driven pass through to Miller’s feet. The striker then turned expertly on the edge of the area before letting fly, but his effort was comfortably dealt with by the visiting ‘keeper.
As the half wore on, Vale continued to dictate proceedings and they were rewarded on 20 minutes as Luke Hannant struck from six yards. David Worrall did see his initial effort well saved by Morris following a well-worked move, but the midfielder was on hand to tuck the rebound home despite close attention from a defender.
Another neat build-up then carved open the Crawley back line on 30 minutes, with Manny Oyeleke the architect of the move after winning possession on the halfway line. He then sprayed a ball out to Worrall who delivered towards Tom Pope, but he was unable to direct his header on target.
The next chance presented itself on 37 minutes and it fell to the away side against the run of play. but Lewis Young could only direct his strike onto the post from a tight angle. Filipe Morais then took aim from range five minutes later, only to see his powerful drive career just wide of the far post.
Following the restart, Crawley came out searching for an equaliser and they mounted a few attacks early in the half, but Vale’s defence was able to stand firm. Young did send a looping header on target on 51 minutes, but it was never troubling Scott Brown and he was on hand to make a routine save.
The Red Devils began to look more threatening as they got the ball forward to Ollie Palmer, and the big striker had a low strike blocked by Connell Rawlinson on 67 minutes. The centre-half was then Vale’s saviour just two minutes later, again thwarting Palmer from inside the six-yard box with a brave interception.
Clark was the next player to deny the away side a clear sight of goal with a quarter of an hour still to play. A prolonged spell of Crawley pressure eventually saw Reece Grego-Cox send in a deep cross, but before an attacker was able to get a shot away, Clark got across to make a last-ditch challenge.
With Harry Kewell's men forced to throw bodies forward in attempt to salvage something from the contest, Vale profited on the counter attack and Pope almost doubled his side's advantage two minutes from time. Scott Quigley and Worrall linked up to work the opportunity, but Morris made a sprawling save.
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Legge, Rawlinson, Clark, Worrall (Quigley 78), Joyce, Oyeleke (Kay 37), Hannant, Pope ©, Miller (Dodds 62’).
Unused Substitutes: Hornby, Vassell, Smith, Kanu.
Crawley Town: Morris, Young (Nathaniel-George 71), Doherty, Connolly, Grego-Cox (Camara 77), Palmer, Francomb, Vincelot ©, Bulman (Randall 77), Morais, Milsom.
Unused Substitutes: Mersin, Payne, McNerney.
Attendance: 4,159 (70 away).