It was with a sense of enthusiasm, not over confidence, that the Valiants returned to Vale Park for their first competitive start of the season. Much has been written about the transformation Carol and Kevin Shanahan have overseen in the closed season, but in all honesty, most of us couldn’t conceive the issues, trials and tribulations they have overcome to welcome League Two football back to Vale Park.
And it was with that continued positive feeling, that the Club today announced its new Club President, the Valiant legend John Rudge. For the younger members amongst us, John Rudge could and possibly should, be named as the most successful manager in Vales history, overseeing 749 matches, winning 278 of them, drawing 213 and only losing 258 giving him a win ratio of 37.12% Beginning his reign in December 1983, he managed the club until 18th January 1999, when Chairman Bill Bell brought to an end the most successful managerial period in Vales History.
So, it was Vale to kick us off through Oyeleke and indeed it was the Vale with the first chance, Conlon crossing from the left, Amoo winning the header, but there was no direction and it went over the bar for a goal kick. The game seemed to meander for the next ten minutes, lots of hustle and bustle but no real efforts on goal to speak of.
The game sparked back into life on twelve, good work from Worrall down the Vale right, hanging a cross up to the centre of the Cobblers goal but Keeper Arnold gathered with ease. In was good to see both teams trying to play but blustery conditions are not helping at all. Vale continued to press forward and on Seventeen minutes, good interplay on the left-hand side between Conlon, Amoo and Crookes created a little space but the final cross from Crookes was poor as the wind carried it out of play for a goal kick.
Vale were on the attack again on Nineteen minutes, good work from Conlon on the edge of the Northampton breaking up play after a knock down from Pope, the ball broke to Oyeleke, but he scuffed his shot and the ball bobbled to the left of the goal. Vale won their first corner of the half on Twenty-Five, Worrall drifting it to the back post, Pope trying to win the header but its deflected wide for a second corner. This second corner provided to be the basis of the first Vale Park goal of the season, Worrall taking from the Vale right, fired across the edge of the six yard box and Amoo was gifted a free header in the centre of the goal, heading firmly in the roof of the net leaving Arnold no chance.
On Thirty-One Vale really should have been two up, attacking down the left through Amoo, cross comes in, Conlon fashions a chance on the edge of the box, but cuts back to change feet, blocked out and is forced to pass to Worrall who’s crowded out before the ball falls to Gibbons who fires into the side netting. Conlon might well have been disappointed there.
The visitors finally started to get a foothold in the game on Thirty-Five and finally drew the first save from Brown, good work down the left, freeing Hoskins but his cross shot is gathered by the Vale keeper on the near post. Vale responded on thirty-six minutes, winning a free kick after Worrall is brought down by Martin after a fabulous cross field ball from Conlon created opportunity. Unfortunately, the free Kick is again caught by the win and is cleared by the Cobbler defence.
Northampton though continued to ramp up the pressure, winning a corner on their attacking right, Martin and Adams standing over it before its crossed low into the box, a flick in front of the front post and Browns gathers smartly down to his left at the near post.
On Forty-One Minutes there was another Corner for the visitors, Addams lifting it into the box and Pope clearing as the first defender. Vale continued to drop back, and Smith was forced to concede a Corner with a poor header back in the direction of Brown. It was Martin this time that crossed it into the near post but into the side netting.
The Visitors were clearing finishing the half the stronger, Joyce blocking off a midfield run and picking up a caution. On Forty-Four, Northampton won a further corner, crossed in from the left by Adams, this time scrambled away and Vale break through Worrall, but his pass to the supporting Amoo is just too far in front and the move fizzles out.
On Forty-Five Northampton offered a further warning, Gibbons diving into a tackle and was beaten by Hoskins, Hoskins in the clear but fires across the goal when he should have scored, the referee strangely giving a corner for a mysterious deflection.
Unfortunately though, Vale had failed to heed the warnings of the last ten minutes as Northampton levelled, through a further Corner from Martin, flicked on at the near post and Watson headed into the goal at the back post.
It was a good start to the second half from the hosts, as Amoo drove down the right from a Gibbons pass, he cut the ball back to Gibbons who got to the byline but his cross was snuffed out by the Northampton defence. On Forty-Nine Worrall won a free kick down the Vale right, level with the penalty box. Conlon fires it across the box with his left foot as Legge leapt well but his firm header just flies to the left of the upright and out for a goal kick.
Northampton were also having their moments, Gibbons conceding a corner after good work down the Northampton right. The Corner came over and Joyce was forced to head off his own line, the ball ricocheting around the box, Gibbons charging down a second effort before a third effort flew right of the goal and Vale survived.
On Fifty-Nine, Vale counter attacked from a Northampton Corner, Worrall setting Amoo free down the Vale left, who runs with the ball for a full fifty yards before crossing to Skipper Pope who fires a head goal wards but straight at Arnold.
On Sixty minutes, Vale are denied again, Worrall, the Vale winger, going around his defender, drawing the Keeper, but Arnold stood his ground well and deflected Worrall’s effort wide. This was the last action that Arnold saw during the afternoon as Northampton were forced to change their Keeper as Arnold hobbled off with a thigh strain to be replaced by Cornell, Martin also departing to be replaced by Bunney.
Vale themselves had a fright on Sixty-Five minutes, Brown making a great save, parrying a firm header back across goal when the striker must have thought he’d scored. On Sixty-Seven, Pope was denied by Cornell, Oyleke finding Amoo in the Cobblers area, a sharp cross from the Winger is slightly behind Pope but the striker does well but is foiled by the keeper.
On Sixty-Nine minutes, Vales poor luck in font of goal continued as Vale hit the bar after a shot towards goal, deflecting off Amoo, but the ball bounced down and away and Northampton survive again.
Vale had a slight injury concern on Seventy minutes, as Oyleke is replaced by Mark Cullen
On Seventy, Vale continued to search for a winner, wining a corner after a good work from Gibbons. Worrall hanging one up to the back post as Legge gets ahead of skipper Pope but heads wide left, leaving the skipper unimpressed to say the least.
5,931 fans in the ground had been well rewarded with Vales attacking intent and as the clock clicked into the last ten minutes good play down the left by Amoo was not rewarded despite him jinking past Hall-Johnson, crossing in to the near post, but Keeper Cornell gathered easily.
On Eighty-Four minutes, Pope with a good defensive header conceded the corner, which was thrown over but it was Vale that break, 3 on 1, Worrall trying to pick out one of the two runners but Amoo’s flick to Cullen is cut out and a golden chance went begging.
Vale continued to dominate the last few minutes, chance after chance falling to a variety of players but the Cobblers held out for a good point against such a dominant second half display from the Valiants.
Whilst many fans will be disappointed with the draw, that’s two good results against two teams expected to be in the shakeup at the end of the season. Vale will again be tested on Tuesday as they welcome Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup but given the last two performances, Vale should have nothing to fear and seek a cup upset at Vale Park.
Following today’s match, reporter Mark Glover-Jones caught up with John Askey:
Mark also managed to speak with one of Vale’s latest recruits David Amoo: