Luke Varney’s first-half strike condemns Port Vale to a 1-0 defeat at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
A neat corner-kick routine allowed the hosts to take the lead as Chris Hussey found the on-rushing Varney on the edge of the box, who smashed into the bottom corner, proving the only goal of the game.
John Askey rung the changes as Manny Oyeleke, David Worrall, Leon Legge and Cristian Montano all returned to the starting 11, as the likes of Luke Hannant and Mitch Clark dropped down to the bench.
The refreshed Vale outfit started the affair positively as Worrall drifted in a number of crosses to Vale’s skipper Tom Pope, who in search of his 100th goal in a Vale shirt, headed close on a couple occasions all within the first 10 minutes.
The hosts however, with their first real sight of goal, were almost ahead but for a fantastic Scott Brown save. Ryan Broom took hold down the right-hand side before floating in a precise cross to the Robins top goal scorer, Varney, who’s header couldn’t beat a diving Brown in the Vale net. Potential save of the season, according to Phil Sproson.
Both sides looked threatening on the attack as the affair continued in an end-to-end fashion – Antony Kay had a shot blocked on the edge of the box as Varney continued to threaten up the other end.
And midway through the first-half, Vale thought they had taken the lead with 22 minutes on the clock as Worrall turned home a wicked Montano cross from the left-hand side, however, the linesman’s flag halted Vale’s celebrations in their tracks.
Cheltenham replied quickly as Jacob Maddox saw a shot from the edge of the box blocked and away for a corner, and from the following set-piece, the hosts took the lead.
Straight off the training ground, Hussey found Varney on the edge of the box from the corner who made no mistake to bury beyond Brown and into the bottom corner.
Varney continued to prove a thorn in Vale’s side as he saw another headed effort from inside the box fly just high of the Vale goal before Montano almost pulled the Valiants level just minutes later.
Ben Whitfield whipped in a dangerous cross from the right-hand side, however Montano’s header just didn’t have the purchase it needed to direct into the net, as it scraped the far post and out for a goal-kick.
Varney’s goal ensured the Robins headed down the tunnel one goal to the good.
The hosts came out the much stronger side following the break and should’ve doubled their lead just 10 minutes into the second-half, as Varney blazed over from six yards. It was Hussey again with the delivery, though this time the Robins danger-man couldn’t convert from close-range.
The game fell into a lull as the half ticked on, with minimal chances at either end of the pitch. Whitfield found the net, though had it ruled out for a foul just moments earlier, and with 25 minutes to play, Askey decided to make his first change – Tom Conlon on for Oyeleke, who looked to have been struggling with an injury.
In search of an equaliser, Askey introduced Ricky Miller and Hannant with just over 10 minutes to play, though to no avail as the hosts commanded the play to see out a home victory at The Jonny-Rocks Stadium, following a dominant second-half display in which neither side particularly threatened the scoreline.
Cheltenham Town: Flinders, Raglan, Tozer, Boyle, Dawson, Broom, Hussey, Thomas, Maddox (Clements, 78), Waters (Tillson, 88), Varney (Barnett, 84)
Unused Subs: Forster, Pring, Bingham, Lovett
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Legge, Smith, Crookes, Kay, Oyeleke (Conlon, 68), Worrall (Hannant, 83), Montano, Pope, Whitfield
Unused Subs: Hornby, Conlon, Clark, Howkins, Harris