Tom Pope’s second-half strike sees Port Vale go four games unbeaten in all competitions, having overcome Bury 1-0 at Vale Park.
Neil Aspin named one change from the side that drew against Stevenage in midweek, as Ricky Miller replaced Ben Whitfield in the starting 11 following his impressive showing last Tuesday.
Bury came into the league tie seven games unbeaten, though it was Aspin’s side who started the brighter with a number of chances in the opening few minutes of the game. Hannant caused trouble down the right-hand side and almost found Miller with a whipped cross, though the ball was cleared to relieve the danger.
Vale maintained their foothold on the game during the opening encounters, however it was Bury who had the first real chance to opening the scoring. Neil Danns cut open the Vale defence with a diagonal through ball before Nicky Adams fizzed a cross along Scott Brown’s six-yard box – no blue shirt could get a touch and the ball went out of play as Vale eventually cleared their lines.
From that moment on, Bury found their feet and began to threaten Brown in the Port Vale net. Nicky Maynard did well to hold onto the ball inside Vale’s box before releasing a shot at goal though his attempt was saved comfortably.
With half an hour played, the deadlock was almost broken as Maynard threatened once again from the edge of the box. Some neat play on the right-wing from Adams as he cut the ball back to an on-rushing Maynard, though the forward couldn’t steer his shot on target as it drifted just wide of the right-hand post with Brown rooted in the Vale net.
Despite The Shakers first-half dominance, both sides headed into the changing rooms with the tie goalless and it was Aspin who made the first change as Lewis Hardcastle replaced Tom Conlon for the second-half.
In similar fashion to the first-half, Vale were fastest out of the blocks following the restart, however this time made it count as Tom Pope scored his sixth goal of the season to put the Vale one goal to the good on 51 minutes. A Leon Legge long throw was cleared just as far as Mitch Clark and the full-back whipped in a delightful cross that caused chaos in the Bury 18-yard-box. The ball eventually found its way to the skipper who took a touch, steadied himself and slammed home into the bottom left-hand corner.
Despite having their backs to the wall, Vale continued to impress following the opener, this time defensively as they remained solid nulling out any attack at goal Bury could muster.
Had it not been for the linesman’s flag, Aspin’s side could have been two goals to the good following an industrious attack. Pope received the ball wide and drove at the heart of the Bury defence before laying off to Whitfield who cut inside and smacked the ball against the post. The ball rebounded to the skipper, though the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside and Ryan Lowe’s side just got out of trouble.
Just minutes later, Vale show brilliant character themselves to maintain the slender lead. Mayor picked up on the edge of the Vale box before striking at goal – his curled effort only denied by the cross-bar, before Brown pulled out an outstanding save to deny Dominic Telford from point blank range.
The Valiants then go up the other end and should really have put the game to bed through Whitfield. The substitute managed to nick the ball off the last Bury defender and galloped through on goal with just the keeper to beat – his finessed effort only just missed Murphy’s right-hand post and crashed into the side netting. A frantic few minutes at Vale Park.
With some whole-hearted, resolute defending, Aspin’s side managed to hold onto their lead to see off The Shakers and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to four games. The Valiants now look ahead to welcoming Harry Kewell’s Notts County, next weekend.
Port Vale: Brown, Joyce (Kay, 82) Legge, Pope, Miller (Whitfield, 63), Hannant, Rawlinson, Smith, Vassell, Conlon (Hardcastle, 45), Clark
Unused Subs: Gibbons, Hornby, Kanu, Dodds
Bury: Murphy, Stokes, Aimson, Thompson, Adams (Telford, 55), Mayor, Dagnall (Moore, 55), McFadzean, O’Shea, Danns (Styles, 70), Maynard
Unused Subs: Miller, Dawson, Hudson, Barjonas