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Tom Pope hails Vale's defensive display at Oldham

21 October 2018

Tom Pope marked his return from injury with what proved to be the decisive goal versus Oldham Athletic on Saturday afternoon, a well placed penalty in the 37th minute.

Despite firing home his fifth goal of the Sky Bet League Two campaign to hand Vale an away win, the striker was eager to pull himself out of the limelight.

Instead, he insists the credit must go to the defence after they withstood severe pressure to record a clean sheet and secure a vital victory.

He said: “After last week, this was a massive bounce back, certainly from the defenders who came under quite a lot of criticism following the Lincoln game.

“They produced probably our best defensive performance of the season today, so that just shows the character that we’ve got in the squad.

“It would’ve been easy to get down and deflated after last week, certainly with the criticism that was aimed at us, but to put in a defensive performance like that and to get a result is credit to the boys.

“Oldham put us under quite a bit of pressure and it was quite difficult at times, especially in the second half. 

“Mitch Clark was struggling, Theo Vassell was struggling, Ben Whitfield was as well and so was I, but we dug deep.

“The fans showed at the end how pleased they were with the players putting bodies on the line. It would’ve been easy for some of the lads to go under, but they stood up, puffed their chests out and put in a great performance.”

Having missed the Lincoln City fixture due to an injury problem, Pope was delighted to be back out on the pitch and the captain’s experience shone as Vale held on during the latter stages.

Whilst admitting that the game was physically demanding, he was encouraged by the gutsy nature of the display and he is keen to ensure that he and his teammates kick on from the result.

He also reserved special praise for Scott Brown after the goalkeeper’s knowhow aided the Valiants’ cause on Saturday, and the squad will be hoping to take that fighting spirit into Tuesday’s trip to Stevenage.

He said: “It’s always nice scoring goals, but I would’ve taken a win with anybody scoring today. Getting a freebie from the penalty spot was nice, but it’s not about me, it’s just about the team picking up three points.

“The defensive performance warranted that. Scott Brown’s handling from crosses was exceptional and he came for everything.

“Players were throwing their bodies on the line, so the win was more for the defenders today because they deserved the three points.

“We didn’t create much going forward and it was quite a difficult game for the front three, we just had to work hard and battle up there.

“Everyone stuck together and dug in to get blocks in when we needed to, with that all adding up make sure we kept a clean sheet.

“It was difficult and I felt tired towards the end, but it’s easier to get through it when you’re 1-0 up and grinding out a result. You want to stand up and be counted - that’s what we did.”


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