Date:Saturday April 6 2013
A fantastic night for all involved, as Vale continued their march to League One with a thrilling 7-1 win over promotion rivals Burton Albion in front of just under 11,000 at Vale Park.
Any lingering fears that Vale would freeze under the spotlight of a large and expectant crowd were firmly banished within 25 rampant minutes, as Micky Adams` side raced into a three goal lead. The bald facts of scorers and minutes do little justice to an occasion that was all you could hope for. A fantastic turn out from the supporters and some wonderful football proved a fitting occasion which was marked by the return of the great John Rudge and many of his side from Vale`s last promotion in 1994. Credit must go to Paul Wildes and Norman Smurthwaite for both their foresight and initiative. Indeed, Wildes has promised a thank you to supporters for Vale`s upcoming home game against Northampton Town on April 20. It can`t come quickly enough.
Another man who had come under some pressure of late was Adams himself. However, he picked exactly the right side and formation and exercised the maximum from his group of players for this crunch game. Doubts that Lee Hughes and Tom Pope could form an effective partnership (holds hands up) proved somewhat foolish as the pair combined to torment the Brewers central defence of Zander Diamond and Ian Sharps. Hughes has lost none of his goal scoring ability and he proved it early on, leaping highest to head home a perfect running cross from the excellent Daniel Jones. A second from the penalty spot soon followed and when Chris Birchall`s long range strike proved too hot to handle for the returning Stuart Tomlinson, the only doubt left seemed to be how many Vale would score. Thankfully, the answer was a lot more. While Hughes will rightly take the headlines, the outstanding Doug Loft was central to much of Vale`s play. Starting on the left hand side of midfield, Loft`s energy, combined with some intelligent movement caused all sorts of problems for Burton. It was his run that brought about the fourth and a second penalty that Hughes dispatched emphatically.
Gary Rowett`s midweek view that his side lacked pace up front was prophetic. With Vale operating at the high tempo that suits them well, pressing the ball high up the pitch, Burton were offered no respite. Symes was an isolated figure during the first half and with Vale, for once, having a tight grip in central midfield, the result was never in doubt.
It seemed only fitting for Tom Pope to score his 32nd goal of a wonderful season, showing his new found confidence in front of goal, racing on to Hughes` flick on to coolly finish past the hapless Tomlinson. A late brace from Ben Williamson, sandwiched from a lovely finish from Matt Paterson, sent the fans home happy.
A glorious evening was only spoilt by the fact that promotion couldn`t have been celebrated last night. It would have been fitting. However, that dream is surely not far away now.
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Date:Saturday April 6 2013
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