We may still only be nine games into the 2020-21 League Two season, however, Vale have made a decent start to the campaign, and a number of players have already caught the eye with a series of impressive displays.
John Askey’s men currently occupy the final play-off berth, and have conceded on just seven occasions. We have picked out several players whose performances have made a significant contribution to the Valiant’s solid start.
The vastly-experienced defender has been instrumental for Vale, and the 35-year old has played every single minute of the club’s League Two campaign so far. He is a commanding presence, who has forged a decent partnership with Nathan Smith over the last couple of seasons. Although Askey has seen his side’s attacking output improve over the last couple of weeks, the squad is built on extremely solid foundations, and if they are to finish in the play-off spots this season, their defence is likely to be key. Their 2-1 victory over Cheltenham on October 27th has seen them clipped into 5/2 for promotion this year, although more conservative punters who enjoy betting on football with Betfair may prefer to back Vale to finish in the top seven at 11/10. Legge is averaging six clearances per 90 minutes and wins around five aerial duels per match. He scored four times last season, and he’s already off the mark this campaign, rising highest to head home the equaliser against the promotion-chasing Robins.
The youthful counterpoint to Legge’s experience, Nathan Smith has once again enjoyed a consistent start to the season. Rarely outmuscled and good in the air, Smith’s pace and ability to play the ball out of defence are often underrated. He’s also already off the mark this season and was arguably unlucky not to get more than one goal in the win over Oldham Athletic. Smith’s signing of a new contract in the summer was a major indication of the club’s ambition, especially with clubs in higher divisions showing interest and Vale fans can see the value of his dominant central defensive partnership with Legge.
The energetic midfielder is the third member of his family to play for Vale and his performances this season have helped him become a fan favourite in Burslem. He is technically proficient and offers the side something a little different. He’s also not afraid to try his luck from distance, and his effort from the half-way line against Cambridge on October 20th almost left opposition goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov red-faced. The Vale number ten also has an eye for goal, and although he is unlikely to better his 2019 thunderbolt against Yeovil anytime soon, he’s already off the mark for the campaign having netted against Exeter earlier in the season.
Leicester City loanee Mitch Clark is currently enjoying his third loan spell at the club, and the defender has slotted straight back into the side this season. Although he is still learning his craft, and occasionally gets caught out of position, he has added some quality to the side, and isn’t afraid to get forward at every opportunity. Only two players have made more interceptions than the 21-year old so far, and he is almost certainly set to improve as the season progresses.
There is still an incredibly long way to go, and although the club is likely to strengthen in January, this impressive quartet are unlikely to be dropped anytime soon. They have helped the Valiants climb into the play-off spots, and if they can continue to replicate these high performance levels, they will surely put themselves firmly in the mix for the much-coveted Player of the Season award.