The Valiants slumped to a comprehensive away loss to AFC Wimbledon and only good saves from Jak Alnwick prevented a higher score.
It was a hugely disappointing performance from Bruno Ribeiro’s side who, Alnwick apart, were second-best across the park. Only the brilliance of Alnwick had kept the score goalless in the first period but the floodgates opened in the second-half as the home side cruised to victory.
After seeing a host of chances denied by Alnwick in the first period, Wimbledon finally opened the scoring on 53 minutes when Kelly took advantage of poor defending on Vale’s right flank and crossed for the prolific Dominic Poleon to bundle the ball home.
Next the towering Elliott, who had caused problems throughout the game, comfortably headed home from a corner as Vale’s zonal marking again failed to work.
Vale’s best effort came from a defender as Nathan Smith’s effort struck the woodwork and with keeper James Shea unaware of where the ball was, it fortunately fell into his hands. However, that goal would have been unjust on the home side who had been utterly dominant.
The Dons got the goals their play deserved late on as sub Tyrone Barnett and former Vale defender Chris Robertson both netted.
It was a humbling defeat for Vale but not undeserved. The persistence with one upfront and with zonal marking is perplexing as were the substitutions. Vale could and should have switched to two upfront for the last half-hour but instead left Rigino Cicilia alone and adrift as he ploughed a lone furrow with Alex Jones underemployed and anonymous on the flank.
In contract, Wimbledon’s simple but effective formation was an object lesson in how to make the most of your players. The towering Elliott caused all sorts of problems for the Vale defence and as he was being marked, two pacy dangerous players on either side took advantage of the striker’s knock-downs and flick-ons. At the back, the home side had a strong and powerful unit. This victory owed much to the Dons’ form and confidence but also to players being confident with their roles and the formation being employed.
It was a sobering defeat for the 261 travelling Vale fans and the Port Vale team departed to a chorus of boos. Midfielder Anthony Grant had joined the Valiants on the terraces and how the fans will be wishing for him to return and be back to his best in a badly misfiring Vale side.