Sub Louis Dodds was a last-gasp goal hero as the Valiants began their League Two campaign with a deserved 2-2 home draw with Crawley.
The visitors are the bookies’ favourites for promotion and with hopes high in Sussex, around 600 visitors made the trip to Vale Park to see their side’s first Football League match.
Pro-change supporters undertook a march prior to kick-off as Vale fans continue to urge the board to accept change and acknowledge the no confidence vote against them. The attendance turned out to 5,889, which was 555 down on the 6444 which saw last season’s opening game.
On the pitch, Vale handed a full debut to left-back Mike Green, while Tom Pope started upfront alongside Marc Richards. Gary Roberts, Doug Loft and Sean Rigg all started while of the new signings, only Clayton McDonald made the Vale bench.
The game was initially a fairly even contest with both sides cancelling themselves out, although Vale were grateful for a fine save from Stuart Tomlinson to keep the visitors from taking the lead.
But with Vale looking to enter the interval withour conceding, the visitors took the lead on 39 minutes when Tyrone Barnett was on hand to score following hesitation in the Vale defence.
But Vale bounced back almot immediately and equalised within three minutes when Richards fired home from a free-kick. It was his 59th Vale career goal and takes him to twelth place in Port Vale’s all-time scorers list.
The first-half ended with the score 1-1,but with home fans hoping the Vale could build on Richards’ strike, the visitors took the lead just seven minutes into the second-half when centre-half Kyle McFadzean headed home.
Vale made a double substitution with Marc Richards, limping from an ankle injury and the largely disappointing Gary Roberts were replaced by Lewis Haldane and Rob Taylor.
On 70 minutes, Vale were unlucky not to equalise as Doug Loft’s tremendous shot rattled the post and bounced out. And moments later, Vale fans were howling for a penalty as substitute Haldane looked to be fouled in the box.
Pope was substituted with fifteen minutes to go with Louis Dodds joining Sean Rigg upfront. And it was Rigg who reduced the visitors to ten men as he was brought down by Dempster who recieved his second yellow card.
Then Rigg’s striking partner Dodds came close to an equaliser with a header. And it was Dodds who was the hero as Rigg’s shot was blocked and the sub netted late on to earn Vale a share of the points.
Lee Collins was named as the fans’ man of the match as Vale started their campaign with a deserved point.
Port Vale: Tomlinson, Yates, Green, Collins, McCombe, Rigg, Loft, Griffith, Roberts (sub TTaylor), Richards (sub Haldane), Pope (sub Dodds)
Subs: Martin, Dodds (for Pope), Haldane (for Richards), Taylor (for Roberts), McDonald
Crawley Town: Shearer, Howell, McFadzean, Torres, Tubbs, Simpson, Smith, Hunt, Bulman, Dempster, Barnett
Subs: Kuipers, Thomas, Akinde, Wassmer, Neilson