Report Filed by Mike Stubbs
If any Vale fan needed proof that Vale were stepping up their Pre-Season campaign, they only needed to look at this evening’s team sheet.
No, not the dropping of Club Captain Tom Pope to the bench, or even the absence of Oyleke or Kennedy from the matchday squad, but the addition of Mike Dean, of Premier League distinction no less, and more importantly a member of the nearby Cheshire County Football Association.
The team sheet though did start to offer insights in Manager John Askey’s thinking as he starts to zero in on his starting eleven for the first game of the season just seventeen days away. This looked very much the 433 (or 451 if it suits you more) with a lone strike supported by two attacking midfielders which sources within the club have been talking about for months.
Fleetwood got the match underway and as early as the second minute the first chance of the evening fell for Madden, the ball breaking free after a good surging run in the Midfield, but his shot was high over the bar. Vale also started brightly and on six minutes, won a corner from the Vale Left, Worrall dropping it central on the six-yard box but a brave header from centre back on trial at Fleetwood cleared under pressure from Cullen.
Vale continued their good work down the right on eight minutes through Gibbons and Worrall, who floated a cross to the back post, but Keeper Cairns gathered well. The visitors though had their first chance on eleven minutes, Madden really should have done better, able to look across the line but went to early and still manages to fire his effort wide. Offside and awful finish.
By now chances were flowing at both ends, with Vale earning a glorious opportunity, Gibbons crossing from the right to the back post, Smith heading back across goal and with the goal at his mercy, the ball was clipped away from Cullen and Fleetwood escaped. On Twenty minutes the visitors should have been one up, a cross from the right with McAleny in acres of space ten yards out but his header was poor and easily gathered by Brown
Fleetwood continued the pressure, winning a corner from their right, Morris swinging it over, and the ball ricocheted around the Vale Box with the defence unable to clear but eventually the move broke down and Vale won a Goal kick. Again, the Trawlerman came forward and Vale can count themselves lucky as Fleetwood hit the post, a great effort from Conor McAleny a full thirty yards out, beats Brown diving to his right but can’t beat the post and it bounces clear much to Vales relief.
Vale were no means over run though on and thirty-one good work down the left from Amoo, freed up Crookes who fired a ball across the box, Lloyd seemed well placed, but he can’t just flick his header goal bound and Fleetwood cleared.Unfortunately, this was the last action for Lloyd, as he was forced to make way for Rhys Brown, the Vale trialist, after picking up a knock during his effort on the half hour.
On thirty-nine Vale continued with their more attacking play, nice build found the ball spread out to the right, but Browne attempted cross with the outside of his foot was too expansive and ran out for a goal kick. Vale continued to hold the upper hand for the remainder of the first half, but only had one attempt on forty-five to show for it, Amoo being fed in from the left channel, cut in, but rather scuffed his shot and it bobbled left of the upright.
It was Vale that got the second half underway and they started much the brighter of the two sides. On forty-eight minutes a cross from Gibbons, found Cullen in the centre of the penalty area, and the diminutive striker did brilliantly to rise above his defender to win the header, but Cairns reacted well to tip the ball over the bar for a Vale corner. Worrall sent it over, but Keeper Cairns claimed above the Vale heads. Two minutes later, good work down the left from Crookes and Amooallowed the ball to be squared to Conlon but his shot washigh, wide and not so handsome.
The Valiants continued to dominate the play and they won a further corner from the attacking right, Keeper Cairns beingforced to punch clear under pressure from Legge, but Vale’s continued pressure was rightfully well rewarded on fifty-eight minutes. A lovely piece of skill down the left from Worrall freed up Amoo in the left-hand channel, he cut inside his defender and hit a screamer into the right hand corner, high over Keeper Cairns, and gave Vale a 1-0 lead.
As you might expect the as the game started to meander as more and more subs took the field, Vale fielding the likes of Pope and Maddison for a full thirty minutes, Rawlinson and Burgess getting twenty minutes, and even youngster Campbell-Gordon getting a run out towards the end.
Visitors Fleetwood huffed and puffed for the last twenty minutes in search of a equaliser but it was actually Vale that had the two best chances, Conlon firing his free kick directly into the wall when well placed on the edge of the penalty box and Pope firing over in the last few minutes after being setup by an outstanding David Worrall.
Whilst the result is excellent, so was the performance especially in the early stages of the Second Half. Manager Askey had demanded a response from a somewhat lacklustre performance at Leek on Saturday but the players duly delivered extending Vales excellent start to the season and setting the Valiant’s up perfectly for their encounter with Burnley this Saturday.