Vale’s first challenge of 2023 will be an away trip down to Gloucestershire side, Forest Green Rovers, at the Bolt New Lawn.
Rovers have had a tough first half of their first season at League One level, and after 24 matches in the division, they sit in 23rd on 20 points.
The hosts come into this fixture on the back of three losses on the bounce, with their latest a 2-1 defeat at home to Burton Albion on Thursday night.
Vale also failed to secure the points on the 29th December, losing 2-0 away at Sheffield Wednesday, despite a battling performance.
These two teams have had some tasty clashes in recent years, and before they step to the turf on New Year’s Day, here is what you need to know about Rovers.
ONE TO WATCH: Corey O’Keefe
After losing Kane Wilson to Bristol City in the summer of 2022, Forest Green swooped in quickly to secure the services of Corey O’Keefe at right-wing back.
The Irishman was the first signing of the Ian Burchnall era, joining on June 7th, 2022, and so far, he has impressed the FGR faithful on the right flank.
Now 24 years old, O’Keefe started his career at his local side Birmingham City, rising through the ranks at the club before making his first senior appearance in 2016.
A handful of appearances followed for the Blues, but after a couple of loans, the defender decided to make the switch to Mansfield Town.
After just one season in Nottinghamshire, he was sent out on loan to Rochdale where he made his name.
6 months into his loan in Greater Manchester, the deal was made permanent, and O’Keefe finally got the consistent football he wanted.
During the 2021/22 campaign, O’Keefe made a total of 51 appearances for Rochdale, scoring five goals and bagging nine assists in all competitions.
Now at Rovers, he has already secured six assists for the Gloucestershire side, and if Vale want to stop FGR from creating many opportunities, they will want to keep an eye on the wing-back.
THE MAN AT THE HELM: Ian Burchnall
After Rob Edwards left Rovers for Championship Watford in the summer, Ian Burchnall was appointed manager of the League Two Champions after just over a year at Notts County.
The Leicester-born boss started his coaching career whilst at the University of Leeds, becoming part of the coaching staff at the academies of Leeds United and Bradford City.
Burchnall then made the move overseas, which has been a common trend in the young manager’s career, when he became the assistant manager for Brian Deane’s Sarpsborg 08 in Norway.
Time at Viking as Assistant manager, and then as manager followed before he became Graham Potter’s successor at Ostersund in Sweden.
The 39-year-old showed his managerial credentials in Sweden, and after stepping down from the job and taking some time out from the game, Burchnall returned to the sport in 2021 by taking over National League side Notts County.
In his one season at the Nottinghamshire side, he managed to get them into the playoffs, but unfortunately for Burchnall and his former side, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual winners Grimsby.
Now having been in the dugout in Gloucestershire for six months, Burchnall will be hoping he can oversee an upturn in form for Rovers, but the Valiants will be looking to delay that plan on New Year’s Day.
STADIUM: The Bolt New Lawn
The smallest stadium in the division, FGR play their football out of the Bolt New Lawn in Nailsworth.
Built in 2006, the stadium has hosted Forest Green’s football since its opening, and the record attendance Rover shave managed to pull in is 4,836.
The maximum capacity of the New Lawn is just 5,147, but its most famous feature is that 25% of its electricity is run by solar panels on the roof of the ground.
HEAD-TO-HEAD LAST FIVE:
Vale wins: 1
Forest Green wins: 0
The Valiants have not lost to this weekend’s opponents, coming out on top twice out of the last five fixtures, with three draws also occurring.
One of those wins was away to Rovers last season, with a Jamie Proctor brace securing the three points for Vale.
Darrell Clarke will be looking to start the new year by beating FGR, and a performance like the one at the Bolt New Lawn last season will be needed in a tough clash.