Time may not be on our side as we attempt to climb their way out of the relegation zone, but with just nine points separating Port Vale from AFC Wimbledon in 13th, the battle against the drop has every chance of going down to the wire.
The recent 0-0 draw against Milton Keynes Dons, who are amongst those that are far from safe, was disappointing due to the lacklustre nature of the performance from Michael Brown’s team, along with the feeling that we missed a great opportunity to pick up three points against a side who were there for the taking. Any feeling of disappointment and regret was, however, dampened by the fact that results elsewhere went our way to the extent that Vale remain in control of their own destiny. Bookmaker Ratings may believe that we have every chance of getting out of our current predicament, but Brown has already issued a rallying cry which will hopefully spur the team on from now until the end of the season.
Having games in hand over the teams around us undoubtedly give Vale the advantage going into the final eight games of the season, and with our recent 2-1 win against Shrewsbury reducing the deficit between Vale and Micky Mellon’s team to just a single point, light may finally be starting to peak through at the end of the tunnel. It is still down to Brown and the players to get the job done on the pitch, as games can suddenly run out during the latter stages in which every point can prove crucial. The hugely disappointing defeat at rock-bottom Coventry, combined with the draw against Milton Keynes Dons, is a sign of what can happen when Vale are not at their best, but even those the teams above us did not capitalise upon those results, there is no more room for any slip-ups. We have to take full advantage of the fact that we have a game in hand over Shrewsbury, Charlton and Milton Keynes Dons, and two over Gillingham, Oldham and Bury, and even though fixtures will come thick and fast during a congested period in which Port Vale play their remaining games within the space of a month, the players need to be up for the fight and put in one big effort in order to keep the club in League One.
Our chances of survival are unlikely to be helped by the growing number of injuries Vale have picked up recently, with Remi Streete taken off after just half an hour at Vale Park against Milton Keynes Dons. His latest setback saw the introduction of recent signing Andre Bikey who, despite lacking match fitness, put in an accomplished performance in defence, with his commanding presence and physicality likely to fit in perfectly during the remaining eight games. He, along with Danny Pugh, Chris Eagles and Ryan Taylor have the experienced needed in order to lead by example and ensure that Port Vale remain focused on the task in hand.
Port Vale face a crucial week that could provide a clearer picture as to whether survival is on the cards, with the team set to face AFC Wimbledon, Rochdale and Chesterfield. Two of those games immediately stand out as winnable opportunities for Brown’s team, and although facing play-off hopefuls Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena in mid-week will not be easy, we cannot afford to lose the other two. Brown will be fully aware of the importance of coming away from the games with AFC Wimbledon and Chesterfield with positive results, but although the bookies listed on Bookmaker Ratings may fancy Vale to beat both teams who are not in the best of form, we can take nothing for granted against sides who are as desperate for the points as we are. It will ultimately come down to who is up for the fight and willing to put the hard graft in in order to drag their team towards safety, and if Brown can transform those traits that personified him during his playing career into the Vale team, then we should remain hopeful that our League One status will remain intact.