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Nathan Smith delighted with clean sheet and win against Crewe

7 April 2019

Following the 1-0 win over Crewe Alexandra in front of almost 7,000 supporters at Vale Park, Nathan Smith hailed the character of the Vale side who deservedly claimed all three points in Sky Bet League Two courtesy of Tom Pope's second-half strike.

John Askey's men had the better of the chances as they reigistered 18 attempts on goal, but 'Smudge' reserved special praise for the defence as they restricted Crewe to just four shots, with only one of those hitting the target.

With Leon Legge missing out due to suspension, Kyle Howkins slotted into centre-back and he dealt with the occasion well, and Smith was delighted with how the young back four handled the presence of Chris Porter and Jordan Bowery to keep their 15th clean sheet of the season.

He said: "We knew what we were going into as a defence because we've played against Porter and Bowery before, so it was never going to be an easy game. 

"To battle hard and come away with a clean sheet against a pair of strikers like them is definitely a high and we'll take confidence from that. 

"Kyle Howkins has been frustrated waiting for his chance, but he's done himself justice when he's came in and the gaffer will have a difficult decision to make now - I couldn't fault him and we've kept two clean sheets whilst he's been on the pitch so he can't do any more.

"We forget how young we actually are as a back line, but we know each other's strengths and weaknesses which helps us stay organised. To think how young we are, it's a bonus for how we've been playing and we can take confidence from all of the recent results."

The win over Crewe moves the Valiants a step closer to safety in Sky Bet League Two ahead of next weekend's clash away to promotion-chasing Exeter City, and the gap between Vale and the bottom two now stands at 10 points.

As a result of that, another victory could seal survival depending on results elsewehere across the league, and Smith insists that will act as incentive next time he and his teammates step out onto the pitch.

He said: "It's a massive result today because going away next week knowing that we could be mathematically safe is a huge bonus for us.

"Going towards the end of the game I definitely thought it was destined for a 0-0, but who else other than Tom Pope to come on and score the goal just like he did at Northampton. He's now given the manager food for thought as well going into the Exeter game.

"We want to go into the last four games of the season knowing that we are staying in this division, and that will allow us to go out and enjoy playing football whilst planning ahead for next year."

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