Despite a push for a late equaliser, 10-man Port Vale slipped to a home defeat against in-form Carlisle United on Saturday afternoon as Connor Simpson scored the only goal of the game with just 12 minutes left to play.
The game got off to a lively start as Carlisle’s Jack Sowerby saw an effort well blocked inside the first minute before Luke Joyce headed wide up the other end. Luke Hannant then broke away for Vale with eight minutes played, but he could only fire wide from 25 yards after creating room for a shot.
Hannant was at the centre of another Vale attack after 14 minutes as the hosts spurned a great opportunity to take the lead. James Gibbons’ initial cross found the midfielder inside the area. He did well to look up and thread a pass through to Ricky Miller, but he could only put his effort over the bar from a tight angle.
Carlisle worked an opportunity of their own midway through the first half as Danny Grainger wriggled his way into the box before finding Hallam Hope. The striker did well to turn and power a strike on target, only for Scott Brown to beat it away with a good reaction save. Hope then mustered up an effort on 28 minutes, but Vale’s ‘keeper was on hand to keep it out.
Four minutes later, Carlisle’s number nine went down inside the area as Brown looked to win the ball. The away supporters appealed for a penalty, but the referee showed Hope a yellow card for simulation. Manny Oyeleke then went close to finding the net with 10 minutes of the first half to play, but his low shot was well blocked on the line by Tom Parkes.
Vale were dealt a blow when Miller was sent off for a late challenge just before half-time and they were forced to play the rest of the game with 10 men, but Neil Aspin made two attacking changes as Mark Harris and David Worrall were introduced as substitutes.
Following the restart, both teams struggled to create any meaningful chances, but it was the Valiants’ defence who were forced into doing more work. Regan Slater had the first sighting of goal on 55 minutes, although he wasn’t able to capitalise as he blazed a distant shot way off target.
As the rain battered the Vale Park turf, it was the visitors who continued to use their one-man advantage to keep possession of the ball, but Vale’s defence stood firm. Mike Jones’ superb ball to Hope caused problems with 77 minutes on the clock, but the eventual effort from Kelvin Etuhu was blocked by Nathan Smith.
Two minutes later, Vale’s resolve was broken as Hope drilled in a low cross from the right and the ball found its way into the net via the foot of Simpson who managed to meet it at the near post. That proved to be the decisive touch despite a late rally from Vale, and the referee brought an end to proceedings without any more clear-cut chances being created.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, James Gibbons (Danny Elliott 83’), Luke Joyce (David Worrall 45’), Antony Kay ©, Manny Oyeleke, Ricky Miller, Luke Hannant, Connell Rawlinson, Adam Crookes, Nathan Smith, Mitch Clark (Mark Harris 45’).
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Cristian Montano, Leon Legge, Tom Conlon.
Carlisle United: Adam Collin, Gary Miller, Danny Grainger ©, Anthony Gerrard, Tom Parkes, Hallam Hope, Jamie Devitt, Regan Slater, Jack Sowerby (Mike Jones 66’), Kelvin Etuhu, Liam McCarron (Arthur Gnahoua 45’(Connor Simpson 73’)).
Unused Substitutes: Louis Gray, Jason Kennedy, George Glendon, Macualey Gillesphey.
Attendance: 3,881 (492 away).