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Monday, 24 March 2014

The Inside Line: Port Vale (25/03/2014)

Tuesday night sees a momentous occasion for the many fans (almost everyone?) who just love a night match down at Ashton Gate. Port Vale are the opponents who will be the last ones seen under lights by the East End as it stands, as the countdown to the end of an era begins in earnest.

As an aside to this main feature, you should note tickets are now on sale for the East End for that final game, click here to buy and support the lads for one last time, whilst recalling fond memories of days gone by:

Anyway, back to Tuesday night’s game and the trip to Staffordshire last October feels, in retrospect, like one of the more influential moments of our season. Going into the match we’d been on an improved run of form, even if results hadn’t represented that and confidence was growing steadily, when, leading 1-0 through a Scott Wagstaff goal and on course for a first win and clean sheet of the season, when Aden Flint made a dreadful mistake in the 94th minute and passed the ball straight back to Lee Hughes, who doesn’t waste that sort of chance. The set-back knocked confidence sideways again and a solitary draw was gathered from the following four matches, a run which included the quite dreadful performance at Wycombe.

If that ball hadn’t been passed back, who knows where we’d be now and what position we’d be in – but that’s football and we arrive at the renewal unbeaten in five and counting the cost of not converting pressure into goals against Swindon & Colchester – feats which would have had Steve Cotterill sniffing out March’s manager of the month award had we been more lethal (perhaps we should be grateful!). 

Stu Radnedge had this set of questions answered by Port Vale’s Media manager, Dave Johnson.

The Valiants have suffered in the results column over the last few weeks and Saturday's game versus Tranmere nearly became another to add to the list of defeats.  Losses at the hands of Crewe and Bradford, with draws against Coventry and Shrewsbury seem to have dented any ambitious hopes of promotion?
In fairness, I don’t think we had realistic promotion ambitions. What we wanted to do was to cement our place in this division and see how well we could do. On saying that, there was a time when the supporters believed we stood a chance of finishing in the play-offs and, to be fair, none of us would have turned that down if it had come along.

So, is there an expectation amongst the supporter base that Vale should be pushing further up the table or is there general contentment at how things are panning out?  How does this relate to the feeling at the beginning of the season regarding your expectations?
I think the fans have been split. Whenever you start to do well, the expectations rise and people start believing that the seemingly impossible could happen. At the start of the season we just wanted to try to stay in League One and in recent weeks, after one or two poor results the majority have returned to thinking sensibly.

Who has been the star performer for you this season, and why?
That is a difficult question because at varying times, different players have impressed. Our ‘keeper, Chris Neal, has been impressive ever since he joined the club in the summer of 2012, but of course he was stretchered off on Saturday and will not play at Ashton Gate. Other who have impressed include Carl Dickinson and Doug Loft.

With the end of the season drawing nearer, do you think there will be some players who will be hard to keep at Vale Park over the summer? Who would you like to see come in?
I have no doubt that some of our players may be off to pastures new, especially with so many out of contract and the fact that the budget for next season is to be cut. Not sure who I would like to see come in realistically, but we have two loan players with us now, Jack Grimmer and Billy Knott, who I would love to see signed up.

City's form has been somewhat sporadic over this season – but are five unbeaten and seemingly pulling clear of relegation trouble.  Is Tuesday night a good time to play City?
Not at all. Every player I have spoken to at Port Vale says what a good side Bristol City are and I have to admit, I was impressed with them here at Vale Park earlier in the season. Put it this way, if you offered me a point now, I would take it.

Who do you see causing us the most problems and who do we have that will provide you with issues for consideration?
Maybe Tom Pope could cause you a few problems as he works his socks off and knows where the goal is. You have several players who are more than capable of causing Vale problems, especially up front. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed we don’t return home empty-handed.

My thanks to Dave and Stu for this insight, let’s hope his fears are in fact realised and we can continue our pull away from trouble!


The Exiled Robin

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