Crewe old boy Tom Pope off the bench to score the only goal of the derby.
Crewe: Garratt, Ng (c), Nolan, Hunt, Taylor-Sinclair, Wintle, Green (Miller, 82), Finney (Ainley, 70), Jones (Lowery, 60), Porter, Bowery
Unused Subs: Jaaskelainen, Dale, Nicholls, Kirk
Attendance: 6,823 (1,216 Crewe)
Last weekend it was our former players, Billy Waters and Luke Varney, inflicting the damage against us in Cheltenham Town’s 3-1 win at Gresty Road. This weekend it was of another of former forwards proving to be the difference in the local derby at Vale Park.
Veteran striker Tom Pope came off the substitutes’ bench to produce a superbly taken finish to give Port Vale a 1-0 win. You have to say it was on the cards too, with Ben Garratt comfortably our best performer on the afternoon.
The Crewe goalkeeper was the busier of the two goalkeepers on the day and he had certainly kept Crewe in the contest when making saves from the likes of Anthony Kay, Tom Conlon and Anthony Kay. He also made a smart save to deny David Worrell from making it 2-0 and Nicky Hunt did fantastically well to clear Pope’s follow up effort off the line.
Crewe’s best chance of the game came in the first half when Nathan Smith produced a superb goalline clearance to deny Jordan Bowery the opener.
Port Vale certainly had the better of the chances in the game and the 1-0 win means they complete a league double over the Alex following their 1-0 win at Gresty Road earlier in the season.
For the short trip up the A500, David Artell made three changes to the Crewe Alexandra side that lost 3-1 at home to Cheltenham Town last weekend. There was one enforced change with centre-half George Ray serving a one-match suspension for the red card he received last weekend. His place once again went to the vastly experienced Nicky Hunt. The armband was passed on again to Perry Ng.
The other couple of changes were tactical with Ollie Finney and James Jones returning to the starting line-up in place of Callum Ainley and Charlie Kirk.
Port Vale began with the former Crewe Alexandra striker Tom Pope on the substitute’ bench. Pope, who registered his 100th goal for the club last weekend away at Northampton, has only recently returned from injury.
As expected, the derby started at a frantic pace with Ricky Miller making a nuisance of himself in the early minutes for the home side. In possession, Crewe were fairly accurate with their passing and patient as we looked to play through the lines.
An early free-kick won by Finney on the left was flicked on at the near post by Jordan Bowery but after a bit of a melee, the Port Vale goalkeeper Scott Brown came and collected the high ball. At the other end, Ng did well to deflect a header wide for a corner with Tom Conlon waiting for any slip from the Crewe captain. Needless to say there wasn’t one.
Good work from Ng, Jones and Bowery down the Crewe right hand side saw Bowery’s fine delivery strike the top of Adam Crooks’ head and the defender was relieved to see his goalkeeper Brown well place to grab the deflection before it flew over his head.
A break down Crewe’s right hand side saw the athletic Cristian Montano deliver a long cross to David Worrell on the other side of the pitch and his centre was flicked up and volleyed by Manny Oyeleke but it was easily blocked by Hunt.
In Port Vale’s next purposeful attack on 22 minutes, Garratt had to tip an effort from Montano around his post and from the resultant corner, the Alex goalkeeper produced a superb save to keep out Anthony Kay’s powerful header. It was a strong hand provided by Garratt to keep the scores level.
Those two chances gave Port Vale a major boost in an attacking sense and moments later, Crewe had to rely on Garratt again after a lapse of concentration in our defence had allowed Conlon to go one-on-one with him. He rushed from his goal with real purpose to spread himself and make another important save with his body.
After riding those scares, Crewe needed to get a grip on the possession once again. In the 29th minute there was an emotional applause for Vale fan Josh Brown who recently passed away. Both sets of supporters were excellent in paying tribute to the young man.
During the ovation, Port Vale had another effort at the Crewe goal and we needed Paul Green to apply enough on the ball to get Nathan Smith’s far post header off the line. The follow up was also blocked as Crewe continued to ride their luck a little.
On 35 minutes, the home side were forced into a change with injured midfielder Manny Oyeleke making way for Luke Hannant.
After a couple of tasty challenges, Miller became the first player to be booked for catching Ng. From the resultant free-kick, a looping ball saw Porter challenge Brown and as the loose ball bounced out Bowery returned it with real interest but Nathan Smith did superbly well to block it on the line. It was a cert to be the opening goal but for Smith’s positioning.
After the ball was cleared, a foul on the edge of the Vale box gave us another opportunity from a central free-kick. The on-loan Taylor-Sinclair struck it well enough but it was too close to Brown, who made a straight forward save.
A first 45 minutes with Port Vale shading the better of the chances, ended goalless with Ben Garratt certainly earning the plaudits for his first half performance.
The second half started with an early booking for Nicky Hunt after he was caught out by a push and shove from Hannant. Garratt came and gathered a straight forward free-kick.
Crewe’s first bright attack saw Bowery cross dangerously and Mitchell Clark had to be alert to stoop and head it away for a corner before the on rushing Finney could apply a decisive touch at the far post.
There was a short stoppage as Nathan Smith received treatment for a head injury before the lively Hannant had a shot blocked by Hunt after good work from the busy Miller.
Vale’s most impressive player Montano then rode a couple of challenges to race across the Crewe box and after turning sharply, his curling shot had to pushed away again by an agile Garratt. It was another good stop from the Crewe goalkeeper.
At the other end, Porter flashed a header just wide after he had found a yard of space inside a crowded penalty area at a corner.
More good work from Montano then created a chance for Kay but from the edge of the box, his drilled shot flashed wide.
Crewe’s first change of the afternoon saw Tom Lowery replace Jones as Crewe tried to get more of a grip on the ball in midfield. A tidy touch from Finney sent Bowery racing into the Port Vale box and after checking back the ball spun in the air and Porter had every right to challenge Brown as the ball spun in the air.
With just over 25 minutes, the game was evenly poised and it heated up a little with a few tackles going in as the game entered its final stages. Vale boss John Askey made his change with Tom Pope replacing the hard working Miller.
Crewe’s second change saw Finney make way for Ainley. Ng soon fed Bowery and his low drive was blocked for a corner.
Pope won his first aerial duel to send Hannant racing into the Crewe box but a combination of Eddie Nolan and Garratt managed to force him wide and Nolan’s touch sent it behind for a corner. From the set piece, Kay fired a deflected effort into the side netting.
Porter was booked for a trip on Clark as he chased back and Ng soon after. The Crewe defence were standing pretty firm as the volume increased inside Vale Park but Pope had that one chance on 78 minutes and he absolutely buried it at the far post. He took it superbly well after the cross reached him inside the box to leave Garratt with no chance of stopping that one.
Port Vale should have wrapped it up two minutes later, with Worrell going one-on-one with Garratt again but again the Crewe goalkeeper stood up well to deny him. The ball was kept alive though and Hunt did fantastically well to get Pope’s follow up effort off the line.
Crewe’s final change saw Shaun Miller replace Green as we went with four attack minded players in Porter, Miller, Bowery and Ainley for the last few minutes but that key chance didn't materialise.
Pope fired wastefully over for him with the top corner at his mercy and Ng did well to halt Hannant in his tracks close to the post.
Crewe huffed and puffed but couldn’t conjure up any chances of note to salvage something from the game.