Luke Joyce has been a regular fixture in the heart of the Vale midfield over the recent weeks, but he knows that keeping his shirt won't be an easy task, especially with Manny Oyeleke now back in training following an injury.
After signing for Vale in the summer, the 31-year-old has made 17 appearances so far this season, and he believes that the competition for places in the midfield area can only be a positive.
He said: “My goal scoring record isn’t exactly prolific, but I’m more of a defensive midfielder who has the job of closing people down to get on the ball and make us play. Sometimes it does go unnoticed, but I’m not here for plaudits, I just want to play my part in the team and keep my shirt.
“There’s lots of competition in midfield with myself, Tom Conlon, Lewis Hardcastle and Manny Oyeleke. You’ve then got Antony Kay, Michael Tonge and Danny Pugh, so there’s a lot of players in there.
“Depending on which way the gaffer wants to go, we play two in there sometimes, so there’s only a couple of places up for grabs between several lads. Competition is rife, but it’s healthy and it’s up to the lads starting at the moment to keep their spot.
“Everybody is pleased with the clean sheets and the fact that we’ve been picking up wins, but whatever the game is, we need to find a way to get three points. If we go a goal down early doors for example, we have to make sure we bounce back and try to win the game.”
Joyce also insists that the atmosphere around the squad is very strong at the moment, and he believes that the home defeat to Lincoln City acted as a reality check for him and his teammates.
Neil Aspin's men now sit 14th in Sky Bet League Two, just six points away from the play-off places. Despite not wanting to look too far into the future, Joyce believes that the squad has enough quality to build on the current run of four games unbeaten in all competitions.
He said: “We know that the performance wasn’t acceptable against Lincoln and it was an embarrassment to ourselves as professionals, but we’ve used that as a catalyst and a motivation to improve.
“The dressing room is always more upbeat when you’re winning games because there is more confidence, and results breed that within a squad. It’s important that you don’t get too high during the good times and too low during the bad times, you have to stay level headed.
“If we are consistent, we will just keep climbing the table, but we can only look forward to the next game. We’ve all got ambitions of getting promotions and doing well, but the first aim now is to get into the top half and build on the last three or four results.
“We will then see where that takes us. If you can string a good run together, then you can soon climb the league. The gap between us and the play-offs is only six points, and that can change within a couple of weeks.
“If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, making ourselves hard to beat and keeping clean sheets whilst hopefully creating more chances, I think we have a good recipe to get where we want to be.
“Hopefully we’ve shown improvements over the last few weeks, but Saturday is another opportunity to do that. If we go out there and put in another good performance, we have a good chance of getting three points."