Vale’s agonising defeat at Chesterfield has left the team rooted in the bottom four, but although the fans would be disappointed by the performance, Michael Brown’s men still have five games in which to preserve their League One status.
More than 700 travelling fans watched Vale suffer their fifth straight away loss to slip back into the bottom four. The disappointment was made even greater by the fact that Oldham and Shrewsbury both managed to put points on the board.
The gap towards safety is still only one point, but Brown make take comfort in the fact that Vale have a game in hand over Gillingham to claw back the deficit and recover from what has become a difficult position.
Injuries to Andre Bikey and Kjell Knops have come at just the wrong time for Vale who may be about to enter a congested run of fixtures with limited defensive options, with Remi Streete and Kiko also not being fully fit.
The Valiants may not be in the sort of form that gives fans hope that Port Vale can put themselves out of the hole left behind by Bruno Ribeiro and Norman Smurthwaite’s botched plan, but they are certainly showing the sort of fight that epitomised Brown throughout his playing career. His willingness to get stuck in where it hurts and put in the hard yards is starting to come through in the way the team play under him, and while Vale have arguably deserved more points than they have earned in recent weeks, the improvement in effort and performance levels is certainly encouraging ahead of what is likely to be a gruelling run-in that will test the players’ resilience and fitness levels.
Brown will know just how important the final fixtures are, especially as Vale have to face the high-flying trio of Sheffield United, Fleetwood and Bolton. The latter may explain why the Valiants are 11/25 (taken March 14th) to go down with Betway Sports, but it would only take one or two positive results against the teams at the bottom to prove the betting site wrong.
It is perhaps an overused cliché in football for teams struggling at the wrong end of the table, but Port Vale have to treat their remaining league fixtures as five cup finals. Having a game in hand on the teams directly above Vale in the table should not enable the players to relax and take their foot off the pedal, as maximum commitment and effort is required on the pitch if the team are to stand any chance of pulling themselves out of the relegation zone. It will also need fans to unite and rally the team on from now until the end of the season, as becoming the twelfth man can make a big difference to performances on the pitch if Brown’s men know that the supporters are firmly behind them. Irrespective of what the future holds for the club amidst on-going uncertainty over Smurthwaite selling to another owner, Brown and his players need to focus on the primary objective – preserving Port Vale’s League One status.