A glorious September was quickly followed by a stuttering October as Vale coughed and spluttered their way through the tail end of autumn. Just as many were starting to question Vale`s promotion credentials, Micky Adams` men ended November back as leaders of League Two and safely into the Third Round of the FA Cup, though deserving better than another away assignment to a Championship side.
Vale`s chronic shortage of goals seems to have been rectified, if only in the short term, whilst there has been no defensive let up, as the season of goodwill approaches, the country`s meanest back four have been in anything but charitable mood.
Credit has to go to Adams. After sitting through a largely depressing performance at Northampton in the middle of the month, a game when Vale hardly mustered a meaningful effort on goal against the Cobblers` ten men until the final ten minutes, many were beginning wonder where the impressive and confident football displayed earlier in the season had gone. The emergence of Doug Loft into his favoured position in central midfield has to be seen as a vital intervention by the Vale boss.
Despite Anthony Griffith`s many attributes, Vale`s current player of the year has failed to recapture last season`s all action performances and the Valiants have been crying out for some extra impetus in the middle of the park. The move seems to have freed up Gary Roberts to regain the creative influence he was exerting on games earlier in the campaign, and Vale certainly look a more threatening outfit when he is challenging the opposition higher up the field, as opposed to dropping ever deeper to pick the ball up off the two centre halfs, resulting in too many ambitious long passes. Roberts remains the key man to Vale`s charge to League One; if there is a better central midfielder in the division, then this writer has yet to see him.
The month started in familiar form as Vale scrapped out a goalless draw at Burton Albion, before a disappointing performance at Conference South outfit Dartford almost saw Vale exit the FA Cup to non league opposition once more. A comprehensive 4-0 win in the return game saw confidence return and Vale then ended Wycombe`s unbeaten away start with a 2-1 win in an entertaining encounter thanks to John McCombe`s brace.
The Valiants then inflicted Stockport`s fourth 5-0 reversal of the season, before ending the month with a narrow victory over Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup.
A special mention to the ever consistent Gareth Owen and his partner John McCombe who rarely turn in a bad performance, whilst the return to form of Kris Taylor has allowed Adams to give Lee Collins time to fully recover from the injury which had hampered his early season performances. The return to fitness of Rob Taylor and Lewis Haldane has finally given the Valiants some much needed pace and cutting edge in the wide areas, which has been sorely missing at times.
Weather permitting, Vale have a good chance to end the year in style with home games against Stevenage, Barnet and Lincoln City on the horizon. With things looking promising on the pitch, off the field issues will be worth keeping an eye on during December as the club`s AGM awaits, along with any further developments on the latest round of takeover talks.
Stevenage (h) 4th
Morecambe (a) 11th
Barnet (h) 18th
Lincoln (h) 26th
Gillingham (a) 28th
You can check out the latest poll to have your say on Vale`s star performer for the month.
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