Make no doubt about it, every single player in a White Shirt sleep well Saturday Evening. Anyone taking a glance at the League before kick-off would probably have put down Exeter as an ‘Away Win’ on the coupons, and given their position in the table, who could blame them? But given the result tonight, its plain to see that Vale fans will be dreaming of the top, and not the bottom half of the table as we start a busy League period in October.
As we expected though, it was the Visitors that made an early mark on the game, unfortunately for Mitchell Clark, on the back of his head as Jayden Stockley laid an early marker down with the Vale defence. This put the Visitors on the front foot and this was more evident when Leon Legge was forced to head clear a 9th minute corner and then clear the follow up from beneath his own bar much to Scott Brown’s relief.
It took 10 minutes, but Vale slowly worked their way into the game and could have gone in front through Ricky Miller, firstly creating his own half chance on 11 minutes, breaking down the right channel before cutting back onto his left foot but scuffing his final effort for Pym to gather with ease. A fantastic ‘block tackle’ in the midfield by Luke Hannant just 4 minutes later again freed Miller in the left-hand channel, but having drawn the Keeper from his line, he could only drag his effort across the goal and wide.
By this time Jayden Stockley had chosen his next ‘victim’ and Nathan Smith was fortunate to be playing the remainder of the 1st half with cotton wool in his nostrils to stem the bleeding after a stray elbow found the Vale defenders face, it could have been much worse. Whilst Exeter were looking dangerous in spells it was Vale that continued to search for the opener and good work by Pope down the right in the 21st minute, firing a slide rule cross across the front of goal, but neither Miller or Hannant could apply the final touch at the back post.
Another half chance came and went in the 25th Minute, Pope doing well to free himself of the attentions of his Central Defensive marker but only managing to flick his head wide left of the goal. The match started to meander, and this was the opportunity for Exeter to come back into the game, first through a Boateng Corner on 35 minutes, headed clear by Legge, then Martin attacking down the right, thwarted by a combination of a Clark block and Brown gathering at his near post.
Despite Exeter taking control of the game, the next opportunity fell to the Valiant’s, Ben Whitfield charging through the midfield after a deft layoff from Pope. Running past both Strikers, Whitfield burst into the opposition half, turning a defender, but the finish was no near as good as his build up and Whitfield could only muster a tame effort, with Pym squarely behind in in the Exeter goal.
The game now having opened up, swung from side to side and the Visitors should have done better after good work from Law in the 41st minute. His run down the right Wing continued along the front of the Vale defence camped on the edge of the Penalty Box spotting Martin free laying the ball off perfectly for him to strike first time, Martins effort though was wasteful and flew high into the Bycars Stand. The best chance of the first half fell to the Valiants on 43 minutes, Conlon striking a sweet shot from around thirty yards, angling for the top right corner, but Pym pulled off the save of the game, getting a fingertip to it, and pushing it onto the bar and out for a corner.
Exeter started the second half much the same as they started the first and this was rewarded as they took the lead on 47 minutes, good work down the right by the Winger, getting behind the Vale defence, before pulling the ball back and across goal, leaving Law the simplest of chances to swept the ball home giving Brown no chance in the Vale Goal.
This only sparked Vale into life, Conlon striking a free kick in to the wall on 53 minutes, Pope having an effort saved from a corner on 57 minutes, and Ben Whitfield missing a guilt edged chance on 58 minutes after been setup by the impressive Conlon.
A succession of Vale Corners followed, all of which were resolutely defended by a physical Exeter defence, Pope, Smith and Legge all having efforts scrambled clear. With time running down, in fact way over the five minutes time allowed, Vale won a further Corner, Keeper Scott Brown even making his way into the opposing Penalty Box. The Corner was delivered, and a ‘pinball wizard’ type situation occurred, Rawlinson winning his header, aiming the ball towards goal, Legge helping it on its way, before Smith flicked the ball onto the Bar. Whilst many in the stands had head in hands, Kanu was the first react to the rebound and the simplest of headers found the net and gave Vale a share of the spoils they richly deserved.
Vale will come out of this test with a renewed self confidence and march on to Milton Keynes Dons on Tuesday Night with a four match unbeaten run to defend.