Port Vale captain Tom Pope was full of praise for his teammates' performance away to Colchester United yesterday afternoon, after the Valiants picked up a 1-1 draw in Essex to kick off the clubs new era in the league.
For the second consecutive season on the opening day, it didn't take long for our captain to open up his account for the new campaign. Five minutes to precise, as Pope fired his penalty into the top corner after Manny Oyeleke was brought down inside the area.
A goal dedicated to his close friend and Vale fan Paul Hanks, who sadly passed away recently, Pope's opener from the spot kick was the least the Vale deserved after an extremely bright opening 25 minutes.
Vale's defence and resilience was soon to be tested as Colchester grew into the game and looked to utilise their quicker players. Frank Nouble and Senior caused the Valiants problems with their pace and the home equalised with a scrappy goal just before the half.
In a game that many believed would be difficult to get anything out of considering Vale's poor form away to Colchester in recent history, Pope was pleased to see the Vale come away with a hard earned point.
"The fixture before the kick off most people, certainly after last year, weren't too optimistic of us getting much. I think on the whole people would've looked at that fixture and thought it was a banker home win.
"But we started brilliantly and it's just a shame we couldn't carry that on. The way we did get after them for the 20/25 minutes sometimes you have to ride your luck a little bit as well.
"Second half defensively we were superb and I thought we deserved a point... it's a great point away at Colchester and hopefully it gives us something to build on for going into next week."
Vale's draw away to the U's yesterday afternoon extends the Valiants' unbeaten record on the opening day of the season to 16 years, but it would've been broken had it not been for the John Askey's defence.
Popey hailed the performance of young James Gibbons as "excellent" as he battled throughout the game with Frank Nouble out on his right hand side. Nouble proved to be a handful for Gibbo in the latter stages of the first half but the defender held his own and prevented the winger from causing any damage in the second half.
With one of the biggest teams in the league in terms of height, Pope believes the performance against Colchester proves that the Vale won't be bullied by the bigger teams in the league and that says a lot.
"They're the biggest team in the league by a mile. Both centre halves are 6ft 5', 6ft 6', Harry Pell's 6ft 6' in the middle and Frank Noubles' 6ft 5'!
"Sometimes against the likes of Lincoln last year when they scored five set pieces, they're the kind of games where you can crumble and fold.
"It just shows the strength of character these lads have got, we stood up, they didn't look a threat from set pieces and we didn't let them bully us. It's a good start for us."