Ben Whitfield and Manny Oyeleke scored their first goals of the Sky Bet League Two season on Saturday afternoon as Vale ran out as comfortable winners against Northampton Town. Connell Rawlinson and Ricky Miller also hit the woodwork on an afternoon where the Valiants dominated, but they had to settle for just the two goals.
Vale started on the front foot as they pressed for an opener and Mitchell Clark got a shot away after just two minutes, but his powerful strike was well blocked by the outstretched leg of Ashton Taylor.
The next chance of the afternoon did fall to the visitors after Scott Brown could only direct a punch into the path of Sam Hoskins, but his volley sailed beyond the crowd of bodies in the box and over the bar with six minutes on the clock.
Five minutes later, it was the Valiants who were back on the attack. Tom Conlon created the opportunity as he clipped a free-kick into a dangerous area, with Manny Oyeleke profiting to curl an effort towards the far corner, only to be denied by Dave Cornell.
Rawlinson then went inches away from giving Vale an early lead as he connected with a perfectly placed Conlon delivery, but the centre-back could only send a header just over the bar from close range.
Northampton then missed a clear-cut chance midway through the first half as Andy Williams failed to hit the target from close range, and they were punished four minutes later as Vale took the lead. Whitfield cut inside and drilled an effort into the bottom corner from range before wheeling away in celebration.
Williams did protest for a penalty on 42 minutes as the ball inadvertently struck Leon Legge’s hand inside the area, but the referee was unmoved. Whitfield then went close on the stroke of half-time, but his acrobatic effort deflected just off target and that proved to be the final action of the opening half.
Following the restart, it was the home side who continued to look the more threatening in possession. With 51 minutes played, Luke Hannant did well to deliver a looping cross from the left flank that was heading on target, but Cornell backpedalled to claw the ball away from goal.
Northampton were then reduced to 10 men just before the hour mark as Aaron Pierre got involved in a tangle with Miller on the edge of the area, giving Thomas Bramall no choice but to brandish a second yellow. Hannant then stood over the free-kick, but his shot didn’t test the ‘keeper as it flew over.
With a one-man advantage over their opponents, Vale looked to make it count and they almost did that on 65 minutes. Miller opened up some space to get a shot away from distance, but after taking a hefty deflection, it could only rattle the crossbar as Cornell stood stranded.
However, four minutes later, Vale doubled their lead in superb fashion. Tom Pope and Oyeleke linked up brilliantly in a central area and the latter made the rest happen, curling a finish into the top corner beyond the desperate reach of the goalkeeper – an early contender for Goal of the Season.
With just under a quarter of an hour left to play, Neil Aspin’s men went incredibly close to finding the net again as Hannant’s corner caused mayhem inside the Northampton box. Rawlinson’s initial effort cannoned back off of the woodwork before dropping to Pope, but he couldn’t quite scramble the ball home as Cornell smothered.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, Leon Legge, Manny Oyeleke, Tom Pope ©, Ricky Miller, Connell Rawlinson, Nathan Smith, Tom Conlon (Luke Joyce 67’), Mitchell Clark, Ben Whitfield (David Worrall 82’).
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Scott Quigley, Idris Kanu, Theo Vassell, Lewis Hardcastle.
Northampton Town: Dave Cornell, Shay Facey, David Buchanan, Ashton Taylor, Sam Hoskins, Sam Foley (John-Joe O’Toole 82’), Andy Williams (Bill Waters 57’), Kevin Van Veen, Aaron Pierre, Jack Bridge (Jordan Turnbull 62’), Matt Crooks.
Unused Substitutes: Lewis Ward, Hakeem Odoffin, Dean Bowditch, Sean Whaler.
Attendance: 4,474 (429 away).