Vale 3 Coventry 2
A thrilling second half performance saw the Valiants earn a much needed win in a thoroughly entertaining game against Coventry City this afternoon.
Micky Adams made two changes to the side that lost at Leyton Orient. Adam Yates was preferred to Richard Duffy at right back while Chris Lines earned a recall in central midfield with Doug Loft switching to the left of midfield.
The visitors, cheered on by a vocal and impressive following, dominated large periods of the first half. Much like the game against Wolves a couple of weeks ago, Vale produced a timid display that showed far too much respect to their opponents. Given time and space on the ball, notably the impressive Carl Baker, Vale struggled to get to grips with some neat play from the Sky Blues.
Callum Wilson, the hottest striker in League 1, was a predictably constant thorn in Vale`s side. Vulnerability to pace and movement has been an Achilles heel for some time now, although some of the defending witnessed during the first period was beyond bad. Wilson already served notice of his threat when firing wide from close range after being played onside. He made no mistake after 35 minutes when some pedestrian defending from a long ball over the top found the striker through on goal. After twisting and turning, he coolly slotted past Neal.
Steven Pressley`s men should have doubled their lead when Moussa missed a gilt edged opportunity when firing wide moments later. The Sky Blues were punished almost immediately. While referee Naylor contributed to an open game by allowing play to continue at every opportunity, he did allow for some 'robust` tackling to go unpunished on both sides, Blair Adams`s tackle on Myrie-Williams being one such occasion. The resulting free kick from Lines was met by a trademark Pope header to level the scores, somewhat fortuitously.
Further less than auspicious defending allowed Moussa acres of space, and this time the Belgian midfielder made no mistake. Under no pressure, he took aim from 25 yards and found the top corner with a stunning strike to put City back in front almost immediately.
Hands up, me included. Those of us who have often criticised Micky Adams` tactical acumen and use of substitutes must pay credit to the Vale boss for whatever he said at the interval as well as his changes. The ill Myrie-Williams and ineffective Dodds were replaced by Birchall and Williamson and it proved a decisive move.
No one must be more frustrated than Pope as he battles to deal with a series of aimless lumps up field at times. With Williamson a constant threat in behind with his pace, this allowed Pope to drop in to pockets of space and demonstrate his footballing intelligence and clever link up play to feet. The visitors simply couldn`t cope with Vale`s pressing and tempo after the break. A sure sign that the Valiants are at their best. The irrepressible Doug Loft, who has been one of Vale`s most consistent performers this season, finally levelled after Pope and Williamson had missed golden opportunities.
Further chances went begging. Chilvers headed over unmarked. Williamson rounded Murphy but under hit his shot on goal while Pope headed a glorious chance wide at the back post after cleverly peeling off his marker.
The inevitable winner finally came with seven minutes remaining. Williamson again caused mayhem with his pace, before squaring the ball to Pope who contrived to miss from close range. Thankfully Birchall, a former Coventry player, was on hand to squeeze the ball in at the near post.
On a glorious Potteries September afternoon, Vale`s second half display lifted the spirits and reinforced the notion that Adams` men play at their best on the front foot. Whether that is a sustainable model throughout the season or not, it remains Vale`s modus operandi and offers the most unadulterated pleasure to the viewer.
Vale travel to Tranmere Rovers next week minus Adams who will undergo a hip operation, hoping for an improvement on their away form, while Sky Blues supporters, who suffered their first defeat in seven, will have seen enough to remain confident that life on the pitch is in good hands at least.