Port Vale picked up their first league win of the new year with a hard earned win away to Crawley Town thanks to a first half goal from Ricky Miller.
Coming into the game Vale were in desperate need of all three points after a poor run of form in the league. Manager Neil Aspin gave new loanee signing Adam Crookes his debut in a Vale shirt whilst goal scorer Ricky Miller came in for the injured Tom Pope.
The opening 10 minutes proved to be an equally matched affair as both sides attempted to work each other out. Crawley looked to be through on goal with half a chance in the opening stages by James Gibbons was alert with his tracking back and intercepted the ball cleanly to clear.
After a quiet opening Vale began to find their feet by playing some excellent passing football, and both sides came close to taking the lead. Connolly's slip at the back for Crawley was pounced on by Miller inside the box, but the defender recovered well to block Millers attempt at goal.
A moment of panic at the back for Crawley nearly turned into a moment of joy for the home side. The hosts broke down Vale's left hand side, and Morais got himself on the end of the incoming cross but somehow managed to miss the target from five yards out. Celebrations in the home end were cut short, very quickly.
The game had burst into life but there was a tense atmosphere in the air as both sides nervously looked to take the lead. The nervousness was proved by Antony Kay as an uncharacteristic mistake by the midfielder nearly gifted Crawley the lead. His wayward pass to a Crawley midfielder played Poleon through one on one with Brown, and his shot went straight through the keepers legs but trickled just wide of the post. A huge let off for the Vale, but just like that the tables turned.
After a scare at the back for the Vale, Neil Aspin's men went up the other end to take the lead through none other than Ricky Miller on the 27th minute. The striker, in for the injured Tom Pope, was put through on goal by Luke Hannant. His original effort was parried by goalkeeper Glenn Morris but straight into the path of Miller who tucked the ball home for the Vale. His first goal in the league for the Valiants since the opening day of the season.
Miller's goal killed any end to end action for a fair amount of time. Scott Brown was called into action just short of the 40th minute mark to pull of a fantastic save after a sweet Morais volley from 25 yards out. The save was enough to send Vale into half time with the lead intact.
Entering the second half Vale started very strong as they looked to double their lead, and James Gibbons came within inches of doing so. The full back continuing to do what he'd all game which is break down the right hand side, and found himself with an opportunity in front of goal. He fired his shot across the face of goal and his effort flew just wide of the post.
As the south London mist caved in at The People's Pension Stadium, Neil Aspin continued to urge his Valiants forward and continue with their professional performance. Crawley enjoyed their best spell of possession around the hour mark but failed to really threaten Scott Brown at all.
James Gibbons' bursting run forwards nearly rewarded Vale with their second of the afternoon. The ball found it's way to Gibbons after some tenacious work by Ricky Miller, and his whipped cross across the face of ball was screaming for someone to nod in, but no one was within distance to make contact.
All of Vale's hard work could so nearly have been undone out of nowhere. Gambin turned with the ball onto his left foot and delivered such an inviting ball into the box which was missed by everyone. Rawlinson leaving the ball looked to have been a massive mistake as the cross continued to curl and looked corner bound, but it fortunately swung just wide.
It was a terrific performance by all 11 players on the pitch for the Vale and one manager Neil Aspin would've been proud of. Next up for the it's back to Checkatrade Trophy, as we travel to Bristol Rovers in search of a place in the semi finals.
Crawley Town: Glenn Morris, Lewis Young, Mark Connolly, Ollie Palmer, Dominic Poleon (62' Luke Gambin), George Francomb, Joe Maguire, Tom Dallison, Dannie Bulman, Filipe Morais (71' Ashley Nathaniel George), Panutche Camara (83' Ricardo German)
Unused Subs: Yusuf Mersin (GK), Joe McNerney, David Sesay
Port Vale: Scott Brown, James Gibbons, Nathan Smith, Connell Rawlinson, Adam Crookes, Mitch Clark, Antony Kay, Luke Joyce, Manny Oyeleke, Luke Hannant (87' Tom Conlon), Ricky Miller (76' Danny Elliott)
Unused Subs: Sam Hornby (GK), Danny Pugh, Ben Whitfield, Theo Vassell, Leon Legge
Attendance: 2,089 (257 travelling Valiants)