Neil Aspin insists his side were fortunate to salvage a draw against Yeovil Town on Saturday afternoon, but he acknowledges that every point is vital as Vale look to climb further away from danger in Sky Bet League Two.
After falling behind to Francois Zoko’s strike on 12 minutes, the Valiants left it late to pull themselves back onto level terms, with Tom Pope planting a penalty beyond Artur Krysiak in the final moments.
The draw ensured that Vale put an end to a two-match losing streak in the league, but the manager knows his team must perform better if they want to record positive results.
He said: “It was a terrible performance and I’m grateful to get a point because we didn’t deserve it.
“We will take that as the only positive from the game. We were second best and we must be better than we were today.
“If you come in Monday after a third straight defeat then heads are down, but even though I don’t dress things up and it was a bad performance, that goal could be a big one.
“It gives everyone a lift and it has got us a point on the board. Before the game you want to get three points, but now I look at it and it’s a point gained.”
Pope’s goal was his 14th of the current campaign in all competitions and Aspin reiterated just how important the experienced striker is to the team.
On Pope’s spot-kick, he said: “There was a lot of pressure on him because it was a big penalty, and if he had missed it, that would’ve made a massive difference talking to me now.
“Tom has shown a lot of character, the pressure was on him to score, but we’ve not made any chances for him over the last two games.
“He’s a striker and we need to create opportunities for him, but that isn’t happening at the moment.”
Donovan Wilson has also been drafted in on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers to add more competition in the forward line, and the manager introduced him as a half-time substitute.
The 20-year-old linked up well with David Worrall in the build-up to the incident that resulted in a penalty being awarded, but Aspin is putting no pressure on him after he made his Football League bow.
“That was his debut in league football so I think he will get better,” said the gaffer.
“We made a couple of changes at half-time because we had to try and do something differently because had we continued the way the first half went, we were certainly going to lose the game.
“David Worrall came on and so did Gibbo (James Gibbons) to change the shape a bit, but I’ve got to look at things for next week.
“I had a decision to make today and I went with the team that started against Luton - apart from Gavin Gunning - but the difference between the performance in that game to this one was absolutely massive.”
Vale’s next fixture sees them travel to promotion-chasing Accrington Stanley, and although Aspin knows that it will be a difficult test against a strong side, he wants a reaction from his players.
He said: “Every game is difficult and you’ve got to be at your best to get anything from any match. We’ve got to make sure we reach those levels because if you don’t, it won’t be good enough.
“We have to get back to that level of performance and if we do, we know we can pick up points.
“In any game, home or away, we must be better than we were today. They’re an honest group of players, they’re disappointed with the way they played and they know that there needs to be an improvement next week.”