So after that display against Walsall and manager John Askey’s public criticism, who should play in Port Vale’s defence against Barrow? Rob Fielding takes a look…
The Port Vale defence has had a torrid time in recent weeks. They haven’t kept a cleansheet for twelve games and have shipped seven goals in their last two away games. The form is so dire that manager John Askey publicly criticised centre-halves Leon Legge and Nathan Smith and suggested changes would take place. But what should those changes be?
Incumbent: Scott Brown
The case for: a former player of the season and one of the more consistent players at the start of the season, there is an argument that the problems at the back are not Brown’s fault. Dropping one of the most reliable figures at the club may be a knee-jerk reaction too far.
The case against: no-one is immune from criticism and Brown has been beaten at the near post several times in recent weeks and dropping the regular keeper may send the message that no-one is undroppable.
My choice: Dino Visser
He was signed to provide competition and surely there is no time like the present to give him a League start.
Incumbent: Zak Mills
The case for: Mills hasn’t had the best of games recently so rather than defending him, it’s more of case of – are replacements ready? The obvious choice is Mitch Clark but there have been rumblings about things off the pitch affecting him and he wasn’t even in the squad on Saturday. Is he ready to take over? If Clark isn’t then the other option would be to switch Nathan Smith to right-back but with his recent form is he in the right frame of mind to play on the right?
The case against: It’s sad to say that Mills has been the prime candidate of the boo boys in recent weeks and his form has certainly been off. His positional play looks off at the moment and several of his mistakes have resulted in goals for the opponents.
My choice: Mitch Clark
If Clark is fit and/or in the right frame of mind to play then surely he has to play against Barrow.
Incumbents: Leon Legge and Nathan Smith
The case for: the duo have been first choice at the club for some time and for a reason. They may be going through a sticky patch but this is the same partnership that was stacking up clean sheet after clean sheet earlier in the year. Arguably they remain the best central defenders at the club despite their recent dips in form.
The case against: there’s an argument that complacency can set in at football clubs. Even if it’s only a temporary change, all players should be reminded that they are not undroppable and surely with the club’s recent run and John Askey’s remarks about poor central defending, this has to be the time to make a chance and prove a point.
My choices: Shaun Brisley and Adam Crookes
The duo may arguably not be the best central defenders at the club but they deserve a chance. They are used to each other having played in Football League Trophy games and will surely have more confidence and form than Legge and Smith.
Incumbent: David Fitzpatrick
The case for: arguably the best of a bad bunch in recent games, Fitzpatrick has also done a decent job backing up youngster Alex Hurst on the left flank. With obvious replacement Cristian Montano a fitness doubt, doesn’t it make sense to keep Fitzpatrick in place?
The case against: the defensive display has been so bad there’s a case for dropping all of them. Some fans have also said that the central defensive problems are caused by Legge and Smith having to bail out the full-backs.
My choice: David Fitzpatrick
With Cristian Montano a fitness doubt and Adam Crookes probably needed in the centre, it’s a stay of execution for Fitzpatrick.
My defensive selection for Barrow
Clark (RB) – Brisley (CB) – Crookes (CB) – Fitzpatrick (LB)
Yes, it’s radical and it’s pretty much the Vale line-up for Football League Trophy games but I think a major shake-up is needed. The likes of Scott Brown, Leon Legge and Nathan Smith are clearly quality players and being dropped may only be a temporary matter but it will serve as a wake-up call for the entire defence and let the squad know that no-one is undroppable.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts by clicking on the orange button to post a comment.