Rob Fielding ponders how Port Vale can keep the forward momentum after ending their away hoodoo at the Alexandra stadium.
Rob Fielding writes…
Create a run of form
It’s an obvious one but it is now three games unbeaten for the Valiants. Add a good home win over Exeter into the mix and it starts building forward momentum towards a push for the play-offs rather than avoiding the drop.
Keep a solid defence
With veteran Leon Legge to the fore, it’s also two cleansheets in a row for Vale. However, it may be a tough task for that to continue. For starters, Legge is not getting any younger so what would happen if the veteran drops out? Arguably the defence simply doesn’t look the same in his absence.
Secondly, Vale still haven’t nailed down the fullback spots – Connell Rawlinson is a centre-half filling in at right-back and Mitchell Clark is a right-back playing at left-back. Are those two long-term solutions or will they start to get found out as the season progresses. Clark looks a class act so perhaps the answer is “no” but we’ll have to wait and see. Having said all that – Vale’s back unit look all the better for two experienced old heads (as well as Legge, the influence of keeper Scott Brown cannot be underestimated) so Saturday will be a great test of Vale’s defensive solidity.
Build a striking partnership
Neil Aspin made it clear in the summer that he wanted to ease the goalscoring pressure on Tom Pope. That’s happened in recent weeks – with Whitfield, Oyeleke and Legge all scoring – but ultimately if Vale look for a forward to score it tends to be Pope. Summer additions Dodds, Quigley and Kanu are not even off the mark yet and regular Pope partner Ricky Miller has drawn a blank since the opening game. That said, Miller’s all-round play has impressed and he is surely not too far away from another goal. If Miller can support Pope’s potency upfront then Vale will have a partnership to strike fear in opponents.
Keep it positive and about the team
Aspin has mentioned the part fans can play in spurring the team on and it’s perhaps welcome news that there are no off-field controversies to distract from events on the pitch. If Vale can avoid the club’s tendency for infighting and self-destruction and get the fans excited with the team’s performances then it’s surely going to help the players to be roared on both home and away. Port Vale is far from perfect at times but a break from politics may be beneficial for everyone.
Act quickly and sign-up the hot prospects
And if Vale want to steer clear of off-field complaints this is a simple way to start… Manny Oyeleke has been a revelation this season and as OVF columnist Malcolm Hirst rightly pointed out, surely now is the time to offer him a long-term contract? After all, Oyeleke is out of contract in the summer alongside another decent prospect Luke Hannant. Now only will long-term contracts be sensible in terms of securing key players but it’s sound business practice (as it would mean higher transfer fees if bigger clubs do want the duo), it offers the players stability (surely everyone thrives on long-term job security) and it’s a good PR boost to announce a couple of contract signings.