Vale 3 Accrington Stanley 0
Vale reclaimed top spot in League Two despite enduring a frustrating first 45 minutes against a stubborn Accrington Stanley. Two superb finishes from the evergreen Lee Hughes, sandwiching a goal from Darren Purse, gave the Valiants a welcome three points after a turgid first half display.
The contest appeared to be over from the moment Stanley midfielder Charlie Barnett saw red for a dangerous tackle on Daniel Jones. Having yet to see a replay it is difficult to determine whether the decision was merited, although the absence of protest from the visiting side suggested so.
For much of the first half Vale`s build up was too ponderous, with the two central defenders seeing far too much of the ball and ultimately creating little. Added to the understandable time wasting of Leam Richardson`s side it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the Vale. However, the tempo increased in the second half, largely thanks to the lion-hearted efforts of Ryan Burge. Playing in central midfield in this particular Vale side, being so intent on attack, can be a thankless task. Burge, though, displayed the necessary hunger and desire to press the ball higher up the pitch and spark some energy into Vale`s display. It was his ball that created the opening for Hughes to demonstrate that he remains all of his predatory instincts in front of goal, even if his legs are no longer willing. The former West Bromwich Albion striker expertly converted with the outside of his foot into the top corner to break the deadlock.
The game was effectively over when Doug Loft`s shot was only parried by debutant Paul Rachubka and Darren Purse was on hand to bundle the ball over the line. A third followed when Hughes rounded the keeper to convert from an acute angle. The remainder of the game was somewhat of an anti-climax, something that will not bother Vale supporters in the slightest as they see their side build a commanding lead over the chasing pack.
Tuesday sees the visit of an ever improving AFC Wimbledon side, although Micky Adams` troops will be confident of further extending the gap over the chasing pack and edging the club ever closer to the promised land of League One.