Dominant Valiants were unlucky not to walk away with all three points after a stubborn Exeter City held the result to a goalless draw.
The Valiants were hoping to secure their fourth win on the bounce when they welcomed Exeter City to Vale Park. Matt Taylor’s side came into the game unbeaten in four and sit second in the League Two table.
To ensure his side picked up a vital three points in front of a bustling Vale Park, Crosby made no changes to the side that won against Bradford City last weekend.
The first chance of the encounter fell to the Valiants in the second minute when Harry Charsley found himself in a pocket of space just outside of the Grecian’s penalty area, but our midfielder dragged his long-range effort just wide of Cam Dawson’s left-hand post.
The Valiants certainly were in control of the opening period of the clash and almost opened the scoring in the seventh minute. Mal Benning and James Wilson combined wonderfully on the left-hand side of the pitch and weaved their way into the Exeter penalty area; however, Wilson’s effort was turned over the crossbar by the Exeter goalkeeper.
David Worrall’s follow-up corner also posed a threat to the visitors as it floated over the Grecian defenders and found a rising Ben Garrity whose header just floated over the target.
Despite the early pressure from the Valiants, on the ninth minute they were forced into some brave defending when Harry Charsley defused a threatening Exeter City attack.
The early period was categorised by Vale attacking and this almost resulted in an opener on the 13th minute when Mal Benning’s probing cross from the left-flank almost wrong-footed Cam Dawson but the Grecian goalie was able to recover and preserve the stalemate.
The first 20 minutes of the match belonged to the Valiants and they continued asking questions of the Exeter defence with quickfire chances from James Wilson and Harry Charsley. It seemed a matter of “when” not “if” the Valiants would take the lead.
On the 25th minute, despite the long spell of Vale control, The Grecians played an ambitious pass into the right-hand channel which Aidan Stone rushed out to contest, but an awkward bounce put the Valiants in a dangerous position with Stone scurrying to get back on his line. As Exeter looked to pounce on the mistake a brave Harry Charsley slid into to cut out the visitor’s attack and returned possession to the Vale.
After the Vale’s early flurry of chances, the pace of the game began to decrease, but the Valiants retained the momentum and on the 34th minute the Valiants could have broken the deadlock. James Wilson received the ball just inside the Exeter half and excellently turned past his marker before releasing Jamie Proctor on his left, our number nine then powered into the Grecian box and looked to get on the end of Proctor’s low-cross but he was just beaten to the ball by an advancing Cam Dawson.
After almost opening the scoring the Valiants then found themselves on the back-foot on the 39th minute when Alex Hartrige found himself in space on the Exeter left-flank. Hartrige proceeded to reverse the ball into the path of Jevani Brown who was unmarked in the penalty-area, however, a series of brave prevented the visitors from taking the lead. Aidan Stone also comfortably dealt with Josh Key’s long-range follow-up attempt.
Despite a few scares from the visitors, at the close of the first-half the Valiants were definitely in charge of proceedings. The only thing missing from their confident and controlled first-half showing was the opening goal.
The early exchanges of the second-half presented a different dynamic from the opening forty-five with the visitors coming out after the break with more of an attacking attempt.
Therefore, in a bid to regain the dominance that the Valiants had enjoyed in the first-half, Andy Crosby made his first change of the evening with Kian Harratt replacing Jamie Proctor only 4 minutes after the restart.
This change instantly brought the Valiants to life and in the 53rd minute we had a huge chance to take the lead. Mal Benning beautifully brushed off his marker and threaded a pass through the tight Exeter defensive line for Connor Hall to strike towards goal, but his effort was saved by the feet of Cam Dawson. What followed was several unpredictable ricochets with the ball somehow finding David Worrall on the edge of the box and he saw his powerful strike deflect out for a Valiants corner.
These follow-up corners were dealt with by the visitors but the Vale were certainly looking like recapturing their first-half attacking intent.
Only minutes later, the ball broke for Ben Garrity who lifted the ball over the displaced Exeter defence for an onrushing Worrall who latched onto the pass and struck the ball towards goal, but his effort was deflected out again for a Vale corner that was dealt with by the Grecians.
After a slow opening to the second half the game looked to have burst into life and the Valiants were forced to defend their own goal. The ball broke from Jevani Brown on the 62nd minute, whose low shot from within the Vale 18-yard box was confidently blocked by Aidan Stone who was called into his first meaningful action of the evening.
As the game entered its last 20 minutes, Andy Crosby was forced into his second change of the night when captain Tom Pett was forced off by injury and replaced by David Amoo. The Vale were still looking to get their reward for their long spells of possession and attacking.
Despite this attacking change, the Vale were forced into a period of resolute defending. On the 73rd minute the Valiants looked to have comfortably dealt with an Exeter chance with the ball falling to Jevani Brown on the edge of the area. Brown then swung a curling attempt towards Aidan Stone’s top corner with the ball bouncing of his crossbar. This was a huge chance for the visitors but showed that it might take a moment of magic from the Grecians to break down the steadfast Valiants defence.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Andy Crosby made his final change of the evening with Ryan Edmondson coming on in place of James Wilson as the Valiants pushed for a late winner.
The last ten minutes of the encounter saw a relentless stream of Valiants attacks as they looked to secure a big three points and in the final minute of the three added for stoppages Mal Benning whipped in a dangerous ball into the box which Cam Dawson looked to have dealt with but the Grecian keeper made a mess of his clearance and the ball fell towards an open goal but there were no white shirts there to prod the ball home for what would have been a last-ditch winner.
However, despite this torrent of pressure, the Vale were unable to get their deserved winner with the game finishing goalless at Vale Park.
PORT VALE | Aidan Stone, Brad Walker, Connor Hall, Nathan Smith, David Worrall, Ben Garrity, James Wilson (83' Ryan Edmondson), Mal Benning, Jamie Proctor (51' Kian Harratt), Harry Charsley, Tom Pett (70' David Amoo)
SUBS | Tomas Holy, Alex Hurst, Sammy Robinson
EXETER CITY | Cam Dawson, Jake Caprice (81' Jack Sparkes), Sam Stubbs, Matt Jay, Archie Collins, Josh Key, Offrande Zanzala (69' Padraig Amond), Jevani Brown, Callum Rowe, Alex Hartrige, Cheick Diabate
SUBS | Scott Brown, Kieran Phillips, Jordan Dyer, Josh Coley