Port Vale slumped to a comprehensive home defeat to league leader Burton Albion at Vale Park.
Manager Rob Page made three changes with Jak Alnwick returning in goal, Ryan McGivern preferred to fitness doubt Ryan McGivern and JJ Hooper starting up front.
Vale started reasonably well with Sam Foley and JJ Hooper both prominent but Burton gradually got into the game and they took advantage of some sloppy Vale defending to take the lead on 34 minutes. Albion broke and the Vale right-back slot was unoccupied – with three against two, the visitors cleverly worked the ball to spare player Akins who coolly slotted home.
Vale were not being helped by some poor refereeing decisions and one of them gave Burton a free-kick on the edge of the Vale box when it looked like it should have been a Vale free-kick instead. From the resulting set-piece the ball looped off Anthony Grant’s head and over a helpless Alnwick leaving the Valiants two down and with a mountain to climb in the second-half.
It got even worse five minutes into the second period when the excellent Duffy cut in to score a cracker. There was very little that Vale’s defence could have done and it looked a goal worthy of the league leaders.
Rob Page responded with a bold move replacing Moore, Foley and Dodds with Kennedy, Kelly and Robinson. It was a somewhat baffling move to replace Foley who had arguably been Vale’s best performer in the game.
It was clearly a big gamble by Page who probably had nothing to lose. But the changes were to no avail as Burton made it four on the hour mark. Burton’s Stuart Beavon had displayed intelligence upfront all game and he coolly set up Akins to cross low for Callum Butcher to score.
By now Vale fans’ frustrations were boiling over – frustrated by some heavy challenges by Burton players, poor refereeing (to be fair some free-kicks awarded to Vale were wrong decisions too) and a poor display by Vale at home.
Hooper tried valiantly upfront but without any luck and along with Michael O’Connor can probably hold his head up high after this game, but Vale need to regroup after this thumping if they are to have any chance of reaching the play-offs.
Vale: Alnwick, Purkiss, Duffy, McGivern, Dickinson, Foley (Kelly), Grant, O’Connor, Moore (Kennedy), Dodds (Robinson), Hooper
Subs: Boot, Birchall, Brown, Streete