Neil Aspin admits that he was frustrated with the manner in which his side shipped four goals versus Shrewsbury Town on Saturday afternoon, but he insists there were still plus points to be taken from the 4-2 defeat.
Connell Rawlinson and Tom Pope found the net for the Valiants, but the manager knows that the squad must improve defensively ahead of next weekend’s Sky Bet League Two opener versus Cambridge United.
He said: “It was disappointing in terms of the goals we conceded, but I was suitably encouraged with the first 30 minutes. I know football is all about 90 minutes, but in the first half an hour we played well.
“We took the lead and we should have scored more - the goalkeeper made a couple of good saves. However, the goals we conceded were unacceptable, especially the two in the second half.
“You can’t afford to be conceding goals which have come from a long ball over the top. That has to be better next week and everything has to improve, but we have a week to go and we want to get into the season now.
“It would’ve been nice to get through pre-season winning every game, but you need to look at the personnel and shape. I am now clear in my mind what we need to do ready for the game against Cambridge.”
During a pre-season schedule that saw Vale come up against some strong opposition, the manager insists that he has learned a lot about his players in preparation for the 2018/19 campaign.
Focus now switches to next weekend’s home fixture versus the U’s, and with three points up for grabs, Aspin is hopeful of a positive start in front of the supporters at Vale Park.
He said: “All that anybody is bothered about is how we start next week, nobody remembers what the scores are in pre-season. You have to be tested and that’s why we’ve played against higher up than us.
“I must admit that I expected us to do better than we have, but I’m determined to ensure we improve and the players need to do better in some respects.
“I’ll take the positives from the first 30 minutes today. I know we have to be better defensively and we will be working on that in a formation that suits us for Saturday.”
Two players who could feature are Manny Oyeleke and Ricky Miller, with both getting 45 minutes under their belts against Shrewsbury Town in Vale’s final first team pre-season friendly.
Miller went close on several occasions early on and he looked threatening up front, whilst Oyeleke impressed in the centre of midfield. Their performances certainly offered Aspin food for thought ahead of Saturday’s clash.
He said: “You sign players and you hope they are going to do well, and I’ve wanted Manny in my midfield, but he has suffered through injuries in pre-season and that has disrupted him.
“When he has played he has looked bright, so it was a precaution to take him off after 45 minutes. He needs longer, but we can’t afford to have him getting injured again.
“Ricky was fine to play more than a half, but knowing what character he has, we wanted to temper his enthusiasm a little bit so we took him off at half-time.
“He showed enough in the first half, proving that he can hit the target and score goals. That’s what we are going to need, but regardless of what we do at that end of the pitch, we have to be stronger defensively.”