Poor defending cost Vale once again as they slipped to a 1-0 derby defeat to Crewe Alexandra in a game that saw midfielder Michael Tonge sent-off.
Manager Michael Brown bafflingly decided to start the game with just one upfront in Tom Pope and the striker was starved of service during a poor first-half display.
The Valiants continued to look shaky in defence and the visitors had already missed a free header before Chris Dagnell was left unmarked by Joe Davis and Anthony Kay and his header found the Vale net.
Things got worse for the Valiants when veteran midfielder Tonge saw red for an alleged high tackle on George Cooper, who certainly made the most of the challenge.
Cooper earned the ire of the Vale fans with some more pantomime villain play and although David Worrall enjoyed a promising debut the Valiants went into the break deservedly a goal down.
Manager Brown saw sense in the break and gave Pope a strike partner in the willing Rekeil Pyke. His introduction sparked Vale into life with Marcus Harness, Ben Whitfield and Tyler Denton all enjoying improved second-half displays. Pyke ran at will past the defence and Vale came agonisingly close to equalising when Pope’s header bounced back from the bar but didn’t cross the line.
Vale’s second-half performance was much improved but they were still grateful for some good saves from rookie Sam Hornby to keep the scoreline at 1-0. The Valiants pushed and pushed and felt they should have been awarded a penalty but to no avail.
When the whistle blew after three minutes of injury time it was to a chorus of boos. Brown will endure criticism for his opening formation and for a record of four straight losses. The pressure will be on to rectify that as soon as possible – starting with a Football League Trophy clash against Oldham on Tuesday.
Vale: Hornby, Davis, Kay, Smith, Denton, Whitfield , Tonge, Worrall (Turner 88) , Harness ( Montano 72) , Stobbs ( Pyke 45), Pope
Subs: Wilson, Boot, De Freitas, Gunning