Mid Season Review
Half-time: 23 games played; 23 left to play (I don`t even want to think about possible play-off games). There is plenty of good news. We are out of administration. We appear to have sensible new owners, though Mr Smurthwaite`s recent volubility is a bit worrying. We are still in the promotion positions and seven points clear of 7th.
In the past five seasons the lowest points total to secure automatic promotion was 78, the highest 84. The lowest championship winning total was 85, the highest 97. The highest points total that failed to secure automatic promotion during the same period was 83, Southend United last season. So, to gain automatic promotion we need to do as well in the second half of the season as we have in the first, to win the championship we probably need to do better. We are the division`s top scorers and we have (surprisingly, perhaps) the division`s joint fourth best defence. We also have the division`s top scorer, the splendid Tom Pope, who has always looked a good player but whose form this season has been a revelation. Chris Neal, despite a couple of costly ricks, has played with an air of calm authority, such that it usually comes as a surprise when he concedes a goal. Richard Duffy`s height has made us less vulnerable to conceding far post headers. Duffy also likes a tackle, which is more than can be said for some of our other defenders. But, with this being sport, not to mention with this being the Vale, there are areas of concern. We have a pretty small squad. We are one striker light, more if anything should happen to Pope. There is a desperate lack of pace in the centre of the defence and we continue the now longstanding Vale tradition of playing without a recognised left back. The centre of the midfield also lacks a dominating presence, though Morsy could supply this if he learned how to tackle properly. Even so, we do have more options in midfield than anywhere else in the team. Myrie-Williams and Vincent, who were key to our early season form, have looked increasingly ineffective in recent weeks.
Mr Adams has declared that he is 'happy` with his squad, but some strengthening in January is surely necessary. We have kept only five clean sheets. Rudge`s Law states that 'you need twenty clean sheets to win promotion`. To achieve this, we would need not to concede in 15 out of the remaining 23 games, which seems unlikely. The division is beginning to look very competitive, with some clubs that had poor starts beginning to come on strong, notably Southend United.
The comprehensive home defeats we suffered at the hands of Gillingham and Chesterfield are also concerning. A final concern is the weather. If the rest of the winter continues to be as wet as it is now this will do Vale no favours, especially on our heavy home pitch. All`s to play for! Bring it on!