Neil Aspin believes his side deserved something from yesterday's game away to Notts County, with only a contentious 86th-minute penalty from Jon Stead separating the two teams at Meadow Lane.
Vale were forced to alter their defensive line before the game with Tom Anderson replacing Gavin Gunning, but another shuffle was required after an hour as the Burnley-loanee suffered a broken nose, with James Gibbons coming on in his place.
Despite the enforced changes, the manager admits he was pleased with the performance of his players. He held particular praise for the defensive unit and how they’ve stood up to some tough opposition over recent weeks.
He said: “What it’s proved is that Joe Davis can be a good player at this level. He’s done well at full-back and then he’s had to switch to centre-back today and he couldn’t have done any more.
“I’m pleased with what he’s done, and James Gibbons was doing excellently before he got suspended. He’s had to come on today and he’s done well, replacing Tom Anderson who was having a very good game.
“Nathan Smith, although he’s young, is like the old man of the defence in some ways because he’s playing week in week out.
“I’m happy with the team in terms of what they’re doing. Pughy [Danny Pugh] was excellent at left-back today as well so we come out with a lot of credit, but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed at how we lost.”
The defeat means the five-game unbeaten run in Sky Bet League Two comes to an end, but Aspin isn’t worried.
Vale now sit 11 points above the relegation places in the division following a very strong December, and the squad are ready to build on that in 2018.
“I’m pleased with the players, they’re performing really well and we’re certainly a match for anybody in the league,” the manager said.
“You get greedy because you want to keep an unbeaten record going so it’s disappointing when it ends, but you must give a lot of credit to the players.
“They’ve done well over the last few weeks, they’re matching everybody in terms of effort and commitment, but they’re showing good quality as well.
“I feel they were very unfortunate to lose the game today.”
On the recent run of form, Aspin added: “I just think it shows that we are a match for any team, but we can’t afford to drop our standards.”
“We’ve got to keep working hard, and if we do that, we can keep picking up points.”
Vale’s next fixture in Sky Bet League Two sees them travel to Forest Green Rovers, a side who sit rooted to the bottom of the table following a defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on New Year’s Day.
Although Rovers are newcomers to the Football League, Aspin knows that every fixture provides a fresh challenge and he insists that nobody will take them lightly on Saturday.
He said: “I think it will be a game that is equally as difficult as any other. Just because they’re called Forest Green Rovers and they don’t have the history or fan base that some of the other clubs do, it makes no difference.
“I have a lot of respect for them as they’ve come through non-league and I know how difficult it is to get promotion out of the Conference.
“We certainly won’t treat them any differently to how we approached Notts County, Luton or Coventry. They’re bigger clubs in name, but Forest Green deserve to be in the league and we’ll treat them with the utmost respect.”