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Roundup: Clarke and Conlon’s verdict on Orient draw

21 February 2021

New manager Darrell Clarke was pleased with the commitment, desire and defensive shape that his side displayed during the Valiants 1-1 draw at the Breyer Group Stadium.

David Worrall handed Vale the lead shortly after the restart before a 63rd-minute strike by Daniel Kemp proved to be enough to rescue a point for hosts Leyton Orient.

After the game, it was clear that despite sharing the spoils with Ross Embleton’s O’s, Clarke felt there were many positives to take out of his first game in charge of the club.

“I thought there was not a lot in the game in the first half to be honest with you. I thought that the shape and the defensive work that we have worked on with the team was very good. I can’t remember them having a good opportunity in the first half and we have the best chance.

“The second half opened up a little bit. We had a great start. It was a great finish by Wozza [David Worrall]. I said to Wozza at half time, he was struggling, his ankle had blown up but you want to go out there give me another 10, 15 minutes, give me a bit of magic, give me a goal. It was a great finish by him.

“I was disappointed with the goal [that we conceded]. I think that we could defend the situation better. They have had a couple of half-chances. There was a great cross from (Alex) Hurst and Devante (Rodney) has hit the crossbar.

“But the commitment was great. We made block tackles, tackles. I am very pleased with that. The quality has got to get a lot better, but we know that.”

Huddersfield loanee Mustapha Olagunju made his debut for the club after being selected in the starting eleven and while Clarke felt that the centre back performed well, he believed the experience Leon Legge possesses was integral to coming away with a point.

“It was his first start, it is a tough place to come and he has done well. I just thought at the back end of the game I needed that little bit of experience with Legge to come on.

“They looked dangerous from set-pieces, so I did not want us to get done on a set-piece. It has not been something that we have been strong at defending this season.

“12 goals have been conceded from set-pieces, so we needed that bit of experience with Legge and he came on to do well and Olagunju did well.”

Clarke was unveiled as Port Vale manager on Monday alongside Director of Football David Flitcroft and Carol Shanahan and following his first week in charge of the Valiants, the 43-year-old said that everyone in and around the club has been very welcoming.

“It has been a whirlwind. Everyone has been very welcoming, and you can feel the passion from the supporters that have popped down to the training ground.

“I will be giving every effort to make this club successful.”

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Meanwhile, when speaking on his thoughts of the result at Orient, captain Tom Conlon admitted that it is frustrating to drop points after taking the lead.

“Away from home, it is always nice to come back with a point, so that is the main thing. we are not too down about that.

“We took the lead and it is never nice to concede a goal and that’s frustrating, but I thought it was a real scrappy game. It is not one that I will want to watch back, but we will take a point and look on to Tuesday.”

Despite Clarke only being appointed earlier in the week, Conlon revealed that his arrival has been a welcome boost.

“I think he has been brilliant. It has been really intense, he is really getting across to us how much he wants to win.

“We feel the same, but he is putting that into training, through little games like that, but the big ones on a Saturday or a Tuesday.”

After it was announced prior to the trip to Leyton Orient that Conlon would remain as the captain of the club, the midfielder said that despite how much it means to him, he must keep his feet on the floor and maintain his performance levels displayed throughout the 2020/21 season.

“It means a lot and I am really grateful for that. But it is down to me to continue performing how I have been.

“I got caught in possession a few times today which is frustrating, but it was one of them games. It was not about that. It was about what you do off the ball, grafting and all that horrible stuff and I feel like I do that, so it is nice to come away with a point.”

Finally, when looking ahead to Vale’s upcoming games in Stevenage and Cambridge United, both of which are being played at Vale Park, Conlon said:

“They are really big games. The gaffer said in his team talk before that it is nine games in 28 days, so it is going to be intense.

“But it is nice, I love playing football games, we all do. It is a quick turnaround for Tuesday and it’s a big one for us, and we will be ready for that.”


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