Vale boss Neil Aspin has acknowledged that his side are in a scrap at the bottom end of Sky Bet League Two following the home defeat to Colchester United, but he believes that more ruthless finishing and some fortune could have changed the outcome on Saturday afternoon.
Despite a poor start which allowed the U's to pull themselves two goals ahead in the space of 20 minutes, the Valiants responded by creating several opportunities of their own, with Ben Whitfield and Luke Joyce just inches away from finding the net just before half-time.
Harry Pell's deflected goal on 69 minutes then put the game beyond Aspin's men, but the manager is adamant that the defeat wasn't because his players lacked effort. He has commended their attitude on numerous occasions this season, but he knows they need to be brighter at the start of games.
He said: “We started ok and we put some decent balls into good areas, but we had a chance off Popey and they’ve put a block in after the first couple of minutes. Then, we just handed the game to Colchester after that.
“You can’t be 2-0 down against a good side after 20 minutes and expect to win the game. We had a really poor spell and I thought we looked nervous after conceding the first goal, and then we found ourselves further behind.
“After that we played well and in the rest of the first half we looked a lot better, we passed the ball well and we should’ve gone into half-time at 2-1, but it’s just really unfortunate that their goalkeeper got a toe on Luke Joyce’s effort and that would’ve went in on another day.
“We then started the second half well and were on the front foot. We could’ve got a goal with Antony Kay’s header, but then we had another bad slice of luck with a deflection. The shot ended up in the top corner, but it could’ve gone anywhere.
“I try and be honest when I analyse every game, but we’ve had no luck today and we certainly need to get a slice of it in games like that. We should’ve scored as well, we made a couple of great chances and the one at the end just summed up the day.
“Everybody has their own opinions and we all know we are in difficult period at the moment, but if you watched the game today, you would say that the players showed effort and commitment.
“If the players give their all, that’s all you can ask. I think they did that, and on another day they certainly wouldn’t have lost the game 3-0, but we’ve just got to keep going when things are going against us."
If suffering a defeat wasn't painful enough for the Valiants, they were also dealt two injury problems as Tom Pope and Mitch Clark were forced off with hamstring and calf problems respectively, giving Aspin concern.
Vale's next game sees them travel to Crawley Town and it remains to be seen whether either player can feature, but it would be a big blow to lose two influential members of the squad. Aspin is just focused on preparing for another test, however, and he wants to see a response.
He said: “We picked up some injuries too which we can ill afford to have too, so it has been a really disappointing afternoon. I don’t think it was a disastrous performance watching from the sideline, but the first 20 minutes has killed us.
“We’re in a fight and we need to scrap, so we have to keep going and regroup. Every game we have is an opportunity, but we’re under pressure to get results and we’re struggling at the moment.”