Vale 1 Crewe 3
Vale are out thought, out fought, and comprehensively out played as local rivals Crewe Alexandra secure three much needed points in their battle to avoid the drop.
Micky Adams, surprisingly, made only one change to the side that suffered a late defeat at Bradford City in midweek. Jordan Hugill was recalled at the expense of Ben Williamson. With Jennison Myrie-Williams once more left on the bench, Vale started with little width, a move surely not designed to bring the best out of the two strikers.
Daniel Jones continued to struggle in his adopted position of left midfield as Crewe started the game on the front foot. Not for the first time this season, Vale`s defence struggled to cope with the physical prowess of the opposition strike force. Joe Davis, playing against brother Harry and dad Steve, suffered a nightmare half an hour, though the latter should hang his head in shame for attempting to get his son sent off after Joe had previously been booked. Adams wisely removed him from danger, which meant a reshuffled line up. Carl Dickinson moved to centre half, Jones to left back, and Myrie-Williams to wide right. It can only be hoped the experience doesn`t affect Davis too much, as he has impressed since returning from his loan spell with Luton Town. The unfortunate Hugill also was hauled off with Gavin Tomlin replacing him. Having said that, neither Myrie-Williams nor Tomlin furthered their claims to start next week with after producing limp performances. Indeed, had Adams had further substitutions at his disposal, they may well have suffered the indignity of being substituted themselves.
By this point Vale had gone a goal down to the kind of scruffy goal they specialise in conceding. The bustling Pogba bundled the ball home from close range as Vale went to sleep following a Crewe corner. Alex should have killed the game off by the break. Aneke missed a golden opportunity from close range, while the impressive Neal did his best to keep Vale in the game, saving well from long range on two occasions. Only the Vale keeper and Tom Pope, who arguably enjoyed his best game of the season, come out the match with any credit.
Pope almost equalised against the run of play. Firstly, when powering his header from Loft`s cross against the bar, before seeing his goal bound shot headed off the line by Harry Davis. Despite the scares, Crewe were worthy of their lead. The visitors doubled their advantage early in the second half, all but ending any hope of a Vale fight back. Loft failed to track the run of Tootle from right back, and his clumsy challenge resulted in a penalty from which Aneke confidently converted.
Vale` defensive headaches were added to when Jack Grimmer was stretchered off with a serious looking injury. With no defensive cover on the bench (Chris Robertson seems to have been dispatched to the naughty step), Anthony Griffith partnered Dickinson in a make shift centre half pairing for the final half an hour. The visitors were creating chances at will, and a well worked third followed. Yates failed to get anywhere near Brad Inman, who fired in after a neat one-two with Aneke.
Pope got the goal his all-round performance deserved. Showing the desire so many of his teammates lacked, Vale`s leading scorer was first to Lines` corner, managing to squeeze his header in at the near post.
The manner of the display raises plenty of questions and not many answers. While a mid-table finish would be a more than creditable return to League One football, Vale`s season seems to be quickly running out of gas. With a manager and a vast majority of his first team squad out of contract in the summer, there needs to be some resolution to the uncertainty surrounding events at present.
Things don`t et much easier as the Valiants make the trip down the M6 to Staffordshire neighbours Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are currently flying-high following six straight wins.
See you there.