Vale return to league action this Saturday as Bolton Wanderers travel to Burslem for our second home match of the season.
The opposition have had a solid start to their campaign, beating Wycombe Wanderers 3-0 in their most recent league game, and also putting Salford City to the sword in the Carabao Cup first round on Tuesday.
This is a fixture where the Valiants will be looking to change their fortunes, after a narrow defeat to Rotherham United in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, and a loss away at Exeter City last week, this weekend is the perfect opportunity.
In today’s read, we take a look at this Saturday’s visitors, and what we can expect from them at Vale Park.
ONE TO WATCH: Oladapo Afolayan
Bolton fans Player of the Season last campaign, Dapo Afolayan, is the danger man for this weekend’s opponents.
The top scorer for Wanderers last season, with 15 goals, the tricky winger will look to cause Vale problems like has done many other teams in the division.
The 24-year-old started his professional career in Canada, before moving back to his birth country England, and rising up the divisions all the way to the Premier League where he signed for West Ham United in 2018.
Things didn’t go to plan for the attacker in East London, and after a few loans, he found himself in Greater Manchester at Bolton.
The North-West of England is where Afolayan really started to shine, and after impressing the Whites in his loan spell in 2021, the forward signed permanently in May of the same year.
Since then, he has never looked back and only got stronger, with last season's 19-goal involvements a career-high, Afolayan has started the current campaign in similar style, with a goal and an assist already under his belt.
Vale will be looking to put a stop to the winger’s good form, and in turn, nullify what Bolton throw the Valiants way.
THE MAN AT THE HELM: Ian Evatt
In the opposition dugout on Saturday will be a certain Ian Evatt, the former defender turned manager, starting his coaching career in 2018 after 19 years as a professional player.
The 40-year-old played at a high level in English football for many years, mainly with Blackpool who he helped win promotion to the Premier League in 2009.
Evatt was the only ever-present player for the Seasiders in all 38 Premier League matches in their one season at that level.
The defender then played out his remaining years at Chesterfield, his second spell at the club, before becoming caretaker boss for a month in 2018, which resulted in Spirerites relegation to the National League.
Next up for Evatt was a two-year gig as manager of Barrow, where he famously made one brief appearance as a player, the last time he would step on the field professionally.
The Coventry-born manager would guide Barrow into the Football League for the first time in 48 years before taking the head coach role at the Wanderers, where he now resides.
After a shaky beginning to his Bolton career in 2020, Evatt guided the Whites back to Sky Bet League One in his first season, finishing third in the automatic promotion spots.
Last season also had a poor first half of the season, but after an incredible second half, Evatt guided Bolton to ninth place after winning 14 of their last 22 matches.
In his third season at the club, the 40-year-old manager will be hoping to guide the Wanderers to promotion once again, but Darrell Clarke will be hoping to hand Evatt his first loss of the current campaign.
STADIUM: The University of Bolton Stadium
Its previous names are very well known, but where Bolton play their football is currently known as the University of Bolton Stadium.
The Whites moved into the almost 29,000-seater stadium in 1997, after having spent their previous years at Burnden Park.
The ground has hosted all four divisions of English football whilst Bolton have played there, and it has also hosted UEFA cup [now Europa League] football, in the 2005/06 season, a momentous time for the football club and stadium.
HEAD-TO-HEAD LAST FIVE:
Vale wins: 1
Bolton wins: 4
It is a record that needs changing from a Vale perspective as Bolton have had the better of us in recent times.
However, the win that the Valiants did achieve in those five matches was a memorable one, a 6-3 win away from home in 2020, a score line that if replicated this weekend, would be a fabulous one, although the defenders might not think so.