Town slump to Vale
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town surrendered their unbeaten home record to a Port Vale who confirmed their status as the npower League 2 top scorers with goals from Tom Pope (2), Louis Dodds (2) and Ashley Vincent.
Town created chances and responded through Junior Brown and a Steven Gillespie penalty in front of a large midweek crowd of 3392.
Micky Mellon’s only change was in defence. The previously unaltered back division featured Ashley Eastham, making his league debut for Town and replacing Youl Mawéné. Micky Adams’s selection meetings must be the quickest in the league at the moment as his Port Vale side remained unchanged for the eighth successive game.
Two teams high on confidence found it difficult to take control of the game in the opening minutes. Town were passing the ball more adeptly and in the tenth minute Lee Fowler had the first shot on target, bringing an acrobatic save from Chris Neal. There was a second opportunity from the following corner when Jamie McGuire had a strong header blocked on the line.
Port Vale came back strongly and put the home defence under pressure. Ashley Vincent threaded a ball through the back four but Jennison Myrie-Williams was denied by the alert of Scott Davies. After a quiet start, the game had come alive.
It was Town’s turn to attack with the Vale defence having to stand firm as shots from Parkin and Johnson thundered goalwards. The deadlock was broken at the opposite end just before the half hour. Myrie-Williams slipped away from Howell on the goal line and found Pope who stroked his seventh goal of the campaign past Davies in the. The lead almost lasted seconds. An immediate response from Town ended with Andy Mangan crashing a header against the crossbar. Fine margins affect games and Port Vale made Town pay immediately. With Town expecting a free kick as John McCombe held Parkin, the Valiants moved forward upfield with purpose. Vincent ran strongly down the left before striking a sumptuous right-foot shot past Davies to send the large travelling support delirious with joy.
As second-placed Vale threatened to take hold of the game, Town showed great character to strike back in the 39th
minute. Mangan delivered from the right and Brown twisted in the air to send a header past Neal into the top corner, the midfielder’s third goal of the season.
The new half began with an early booking for Vale’s Chris Shuker and Town came under early pressure as the visitors bore down on them with the wind at their backs. Town resisted and the Cod Army in the Memorial Stand appealed for a penalty as McGuire went down in the area in front of them. The lively Mangan set up Shaun Beeley for a run and a final shot which was well off target.
Dodds was a constant threat for Vale, forcing a low save from Davies, but Town kept working to get back on terms. Brown headed narrowly over from a Mangan chip in the 56th
minute but the visitors restored their two-goal lead just before the hour. A Shuker free-kick was parried by Davies into the path of Pope who accepted the opportunity gratefully.
Johnson struck a firm drive narrowly wide before being replaced by Tom Barkhuizen after 61 minutes. Town continued to make the Port Vale defence work. Mangan hit one of his specials from distance and Brown had a close-range shot on target blocked but Vale showed their pedigree by exploiting poor defending, Dodds beating Davies for goal number four in the 67th
Parkin was replaced by Gillespie with a quarter of an hour to go. Before he could make an impression, Port Vale went further ahead. Dodds robbed Brown twenty-five yards out, moved forward and beat Davies with a lovely finish. Alex Marrow came on for Fowler after 79 minutes but Town struggled to make an impact in the final third. Dodds searched for his hat trick, prevented by Davies, but Town were presented with a late opportunity. Clayton McDonald felled Gillespie and the striker got up to score his first goal for Town from the penalty spot in the 83rd
Team: Davies, Beeley, McNulty (capt), Eastham, Howell, Johnson (Barkhuizen 61), McGuire, Fowler (Marrow 79), Brown, Mangan, Parkin (Gillespie 75)