Vale were denied a point due to a stunning strike by Liam O’Neil. There wasn’t a lot of quality in the game but a goal scored with five minutes left to play separated the sides.
A better performance by the hosts than in their last game but it ended in defeat. Chances were at a minimum for the visitors but one bit of magic gave them the three points.
The visitors remained top of the league before kick-off due to Forest Green’s slip up in midweek. They played a lot of long balls in the early stages which were dealt with well by the Vale defence but one of those balls in the sixth minute was only cleared as far as Adam May whose first-time shot was weak and comfortably saved by Scott Brown. After that shot it was all vale for the next 15 minutes, with Devante Rodney getting multiple chances in front of goal. Relentless pressure from Kurtis Guthrie led to the ball falling for Rodney inside the area but his shot was blocked well.
The Valiants came into this game still in search of their first win under new manager Darrell Clarke. Guthrie was fouled just outside the area on nine minutes, Tom Conlon stood over the free kick but it lacked power and Callum Burton claimed it well. Just 30 seconds later, a long ball forward from Vale caused all sorts of problems for Cambridge and Guthrie got onto the end of it and was through one on one with the goalkeeper. His shot was well saved by Burton but that chance came from the excellent high pressing from Vale.
The Valiants have an excellent record at home to Cambridge, in 10 games Vale have won eight and drawn two. Rodney was getting plenty of touches inside the opposition box, on 11 minutes another one of his efforts was blocked and cleared. That was the last of Vale’s dominance in the first half as Cambridge came back into the game and started to create chances, Paul Mullin had a strike blocked with 19 minutes played but good defending by Vale kept the shot out.
Cambridge’s best chance of the first half came on 23 minutes, Wes Hoolahan found space just in front of the penalty area to take on the shot but Brown got down well and parried it away from danger. Five minutes later it was Vale’s chance to have a go on goal. Rodney using his pace got ahead of Kyle Knoyle, and finessed the ball towards the bottom corner which looked goal-bound before a Cambridge defender diverted the ball away.
The second half started scrappy, both teams were limited to chances. That showed in Adam May’s effort on 52 minutes which sailed over the Hamil Road Stand. The Valiants’ first half chance of the second period came on the hour mark. Chaos inside the Cambridge penalty area as the loose ball fell for Conlon but again the visitors blocked the shot.
A flurry of corners and free kicks for Vale, the best chance came on 62 minutes when Guthrie had a header on goal blocked and later cleared away. Ironside was a second half substitute and almost gave the visitors the lead but a superb goal line clearance kept the score at 0-0. The difference in the end was a fantastic strike from substitute O’Neil who hit the ball from 25 yards out into the top corner giving Scott Brown no chance to make it 1-0 with 5 minutes to play.
Mullin came close to making it 2-0 on 88 minutes, turned his man and fired a shot over the bar. That’s how the game finished and a first defeat in charge for Darrell Clarke. A response needed as the Valiants travel to Salford on Tuesday night.
Port Vale: Brown, Crookes, Legge (86’ Swan) , Smith, Conlon, Montano (46’ Hurst), Guthrie (63’ Robinson), Mills, Taylor, Burgess, Rodney (83’ Cullen)
Subs not used: Gibbons, Brisley, Scott
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Taylor, Drysdale, Hannant, Mulin (89’ Okedina), Dunk, Hoolahan, Tracey (69’ Ironside), May, Boateng (69’ O’Neil)
Subs not used: McKenzie-Lyle, Iredale, Alese, Davies