Mark Marshall scored his fourth of the season but to no avail as nemesis side Bristol City continued their long unbeaten run against the Valiants.
Rob Page made two changes with Achille Campion and Chris Birchall coming in for Chris Lines and the injured Colin Daniel. Loanees Greg Luer and Tom O’Sullivan were on the bench.
Vale held their own for the opening period and even had a decent chance for Chris Birchall. But the home side were soon showing their class with Vale clearing off the line. Mark Marshall forced a fine save out of City keeper Fielding only for Vale to suffer a sucker punch as the dangerous Jay Emmanuel-Thomas hit a fierce shot past Neal after 33 minutes.
The home side had a couple of other chances to add to their lead but there was to be no repeat of last season’s game when City scored three times in the last five minutes of the first-half.
The Robins should really have increased their lead early in the second period but Freeman and Smith both failed to net. But the luck held for City as Bryan’s deflected cross went into the net on the hour mark.
The Valiants felt it was time to make some changes and Greg Luer and Byron Moore were given run-outs alongside midfielder Chris Lines. However, as those changes were made, Vale threw all three points away as a poor backpass from Richard Duffy allowed Matt Smith in to make it 3-0 for Bristol City.
Nevertheless, Moore was enjoying a decent cameo for the Valiants and Vale scored what was a consolation goal through Mark Marshall on 78 minutes. That was the end of the scoring – although Emmanuel-Thomas did rattle the post and Pope had a shot cleared off the line.
However, ultimately it was an outclassed Vale came away winless from Ashton Gate once again. It was a game that showed the gulf between the top teams and the rest in League One and Vale will now want to raise their game for the next game against rivals Walsall.
Vale: Neal, Veseli, Duffy, Robertson, Dickinson, Marshall, Brown (Lines), O’Connor, Birchall (Moore), Pope, Campion (Luer)
Subs: Johnson, O’Sullivan, McGivern, Yates