Whilst we have to temper our enthusiasm in preseason, it might surprise you that the last time the Valiants won a third game on the bounce was actually the 21st October 2017, but today the Vale continued their impressive start to the season turning over a strong Leek Town side 2-1 at Harrison Park. Fresh from positive results at Kidsgrove Athletic and Nottingham Forest’s Academy, Manager John Askey continued his use of the Full Squad and it continued to provide dividends.
From as early as the fourth Minute, Vale were on the front foot, Trickett Smith firing a high diagonal ball towards Pope on the edge of the Leek box, many thought the opportunity was lost as the ball sailed over his head but no one had picked up Amoo coming from round the back and although the former Liverpool winger brought the ball down expertly, the finish was lacking as he scuffed his shot high over the bar.
That wasn’t to say that the hosts didn’t have their own chances either as a mistake from Kennedy, playing the heart of the Vale defence, allowed Stevenson a sight of goal but his curling effort went to the right of the far upright. Grocott could also consider himself to have a valid penalty shout waved away on nine minutes after he tumbled on the edge of the area after a surging run at the Valiants.
But as the game finally started to settle, Vale grew more and more into the game and started to take control. Having won back to back corners in the twelfth minute, Pope was also unlucky to see his header drift wide after good work by Cummings down the right on fifteen. Leek should have known better than to give the Vale skipper additional chances on goal and it was Pope himself that opened the scoring after an awful mistake in the Leek back line. On eighteen minutes, Pope and Amoo looked dangerous on the edge of the box, Amoo having a shot charged down, but when the ball broke to right back Green to clear, he could only send the ball back across the front of his own goal, leaving POPE the simplest chance to score from the centre of the six yard box.
Pope really should have doubled his tally for the day on twenty-five minutes after great work down the right by Amoo, who beat his defender and ‘fed the Pope’ in space eight yards out but his effort whilst beating the keeper, didn’t beat the bar and the ball came crashing back down nearly knocking out goalkeeper Roberts who, comedically, conceded the corner rather unwittingly.
Whilst Vale had taken control of the game, Leek were not without their chances, Grice going through on goal in the thirtieth minute, but not being able to beat Brown in the Vale goal. Just minutes later Crookes was forced to concede a corner which provided Grice with a golden opportunity to score but his glancing header from the edge of the box never looked like troubling Brown.
Vale seemed content at this stage to see out the half even creating a penalty shout of their own after Keanon handled in his own area, but the awarding of a penalty would have been harsh on the home side and the referee seemed happy to level up the penalty appeals for each side.
As in previous games, the Valiants started the Second half with a much-changed line up, only three players returning to the fray for the second period. One of those was new signing Amoo and he continued to terrorise the Leek left back, this time crossing to Cullen on the edge of the six-yard box, but the diminutive striker couldn’t get a clean shot away and the opportunity was missed.
Amoo continued to be the creative centre of Vale’s attack and on fifty-six minutes he brought the best out of Keeper Roberts after cutting in from his Wing and letting fly from the edge of the box. Vale continued to create chances, but the turning point of the game came about on seventy-seven minutes. Leek were given a golden opportunity to square the scores after a mistake from Legge and Campbell-Gordon allowed Bott to run clean through on goal. The striker seemed to do everything right, drawing the goalkeeper before firing an effort to Maddison’s right but the Keeper had read the situation right and pulled off a fine reflex save keep the Valiants in front. If that wasn’t bad enough for the Blues, Vale made them pay, Burgess splitting the Leek defence freeing up man of the match AMOO to side foot past the despairing dive of Roberts.
Leek though had saved the best for last, and on eighty-six minutes BOTT was not to be denied winning a challenge with Rawlinson on the edge of the box, making room for himself and then curling a fine effort into the right-hand corner to give Leek a deserved goal.
So another good fitness work out for the Valiants, but with Fleetwood and Burnley on the horizon, Vale will need to move up a gear on Wednesday to keep their 100% record intact.