Gritty Vale See Off Oldham
The Valiants ground out a narrow win over Oldham Athletic in a largely unforgettable game at Vale Park on Saturday. Jack Grimmer`s first goal for the club early in the second half proved enough against a stubborn, but ultimately toothless visiting side.
Vale boss Micky Adams made four changes from the midweek FA Cup win at Plymouth. The ineligible Grimmer and Joe Davis returned in defence, while Ben Williamson was preferred to Jordan Hugill in attack and Florent Cuvelier made his debut in central midfield.
In blustery conditions, Vale were forced on to the back foot for periods of the first half. Myrie-Williams and Grimmer on the right hand side forged a dangerous partnership, which looked the likely method of Vale scoring.
Oldham`s neat football, especially in midfield, caused concern. Cuvelier clearly looked short of match fitness and his afternoon ended abruptly with what looked a serious knee injury. The 21 year old landed awkwardly when attempting a pass and was stretchered off. Shuker`s introduction did little to stem the tide and the visitors should have taken the lead when Neal failed to play to the whistle when thinking the ball had gone behind for a goal kick. Harkins had opportunities to work the Vale keeper yet failed to hit the target on either occasion.
The second half began on a brighter note. Grimmer stooped at the near post to head home Shuker`s out-swinging corner for his first goal for the club. In truth, Oldham rarely threatened an equaliser. Indeed, Vale should have ensured a comfortable final twenty minutes when Myrie-Williams had the opportunity to double the lead from the spot kick after Pope had been impeded by Dayton. Not for the first time during the afternoon, referee Sutton opted to keep his cards in his pocket (for the visitors that is). However, Oxley, for the second time this season, saved a Vale penalty. The miss wasn`t to be a costly one as the home side held out comfortably enough.
Along with Cuvelier`s injury, the suspension of Carl Dickinson for next week`s FA Cup tie with Brighton was a blow. Dickinson was arguably Vale`s best player and has quickly become a crowd favourite owing to his wholehearted and committed approach. However, it was a needless booking for dissent, despite the inadequacies of the referee. Indeed, Pope can count himself rather fortunate to not suffer a similar fate after twice chasing the official in the first half. Dickinson can be excused, however. Vale boss Micky Adams praised him as among the best professionals he had worked with. This after the defender suffered the heart-breaking loss of his mother last week, yet the former Stoke man has been nothing short of outstanding in his recent performances and attitude. We wish him well. His absence will provide a selection headache for Adams next week, however. With Daniel Jones still absent and uncertainty surrounding the eligibility of Jack Grimmer and the fitness of Liam Chilvers and Richard Duffy, Vale may need further reinforcements if they are hopeful of extending their stay in the competition.