It’s still very early days for Port Vale, and the League Two season is only seven games old, yet the same old problems in the final third continue to haunt John Askey’s side.
Give or take one or two recent penalty concessions, the Valiants’ back-line has looked fairly assured so far this campaign, but the lack of clear-cut chances and the club’s inability to create meaningful opportunities in recent weeks looks like it could potentially hold them back this season.
Last season, Vale leant heavily on wideman David Worrall, who clocked up 11 assists throughout the course of the campaign. Only three players completed more minutes than the 30-year old last year, and he will be integral to the club’s chances of reaching the play-offs once again. However, that responsibility must be spread around, and Askey’s men must find a way to unlock the opposition defence on a more regular basis. Having drawn three blanks in their opening seven encounters, and having failed to score more than a single goal in any of their last five fixtures, they simply must find a way to become sharper in the final third.
Only four sides have had fewer shots so far this season, including rock-bottom Southend, whilst only five teams have a lower goal average than the Burslem outfit. Last season, Vale fired in a total of 402 shots, with only Cheltenham (397) proving less prolific in this department.
Although it is still far too early to fully analyse the data, the fact that the Valiants registered an accumulative three shots on target in their matches against Harrogate, Carlisle and Morecambe earlier in the campaign is certainly a cause for concern. However, there have been flickers of optimism with the club’s 3-1 EFL Cup victory over League One Wigan Athletic amongst the highlights so far. Vale fired in a total of 14 shots, 12 of which came from inside the box, with Theo Robinson notching a double at the DW Stadium. However, these types of games have been few and far between.
With opportunities at a premium, the strikers are largely feeding off scraps, and although the aforementioned Robinson has made a promising start to the 2020-21 campaign, the former Southend United man cannot be expected to fire Vale into the top seven single-handedly. He expects to become stronger and sharper as the season progresses, and his goal against Cambridge on October 20th saw him become the club’s top scorer with four. Although the imminent return of David Amoo should give the forward line a little more agility, the former Carlisle striker is far from prolific and is yet to end a season in double figures. Mark Cullen’s injury problems have been well-documented, and he cannot be relied upon to regularly lead the line.
With seven games complete, the Valiants sit comfortably mid-table, and fans will be hoping that they can find their scoring touch over the coming weeks. They are 11/8 in the latest football betting to finish in the top seven this season, and they will be relying heavily on their defensive solidity once again.
‘Probably the best football we have played this season..couldn’t knock their effort’: @OfficialPVFC manager John Askey’s verdict on last night’s 3-1 loss @CambridgeUtdFC (Vale pic) pic.twitter.com/OQz7VjKaw3
— BBC Radio Stoke (@BBCRadioStoke) October 21, 2020
Askey must find a way to get his team firing this year, and they must continue to find a way of providing Robinson with ample service. With a number of players returning to the fold over the next couple of weeks, the former Macclesfield Town boss will have plenty of options at his disposal, and the coaching staff must work hard to find the right balance at both ends of the field.