Can the Valiants begin a late push for the play-offs at Bramall Lane?
With just nine league games remaining in the 2014/2015 season, Port Vale are still in with a shout of making a late push for the play-offs. Consecutive defeats against Swindon and Crawley may be considered a setback, but there is still plenty of time for Robert Page’s men to rediscover their form and pick up enough points. Just six points separate Vale from Barnsley, who have hit top form under new manager Lee Johnson, who currently occupy the final play-off spot, but there is only an eight point gap from the relegation zone in what could be the closest climaxes to a League One season in years. Earning three points is not going to be easy against high-flying Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, but as the Capital One Cup Semi-Finals are enduring a poor run of form of late, Port Vale may make headlines and come away from the Steel City with what could be a pivotal win.
Consistency is key
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Port Vale can go on a good run of form and put themselves in play-off contention, but they will have to find the level of consistency that other teams in contention have found. Back-to-back away victories against Notts County and Coventry should give the team enough belief that they can prevail in what is arguably Vale’s toughest fixture in the run-in. It will need a strong performance from all areas of the pitch, particularly in defence as Sheffield United are usually at their best in front of their own fans. The experience of Michael Brown, Richard Duffy and Carl Dickinson will be invaluable in such a crucial game, with Page hoping to get one over on a club he spent three years with during his playing career.
Despite being near the top of the table for the majority of the season, Sheffield United’s recent wobble has not only allowed the chasing pack, including Port Vale, to catch up, but also face the risk of missing out on the play-offs altogether if they do not recover in time. Nigel Clough will know that it will not be an easy game against a team who like to control possession and keep it tight at the back, with Page rewarded as February’s Manager of the Month following a good run of results which included three consecutive clean sheets. Consecutive defeats at Bramall Lane is not the sort of form that would suggest that confidence is low, but while Port Vale may fancy their chances of piling on the misery, the visitors will have to keep the attacking trio Jamie Murphy, Marc McNulty and Jose Baxter quiet throughout the full ninety minutes.