View From The Bycars
In somehow contriving to lose to Morecambe the Vale provided an entirely appropriate ending to what was for me an awful week.
There are really two questions to answer: first, how did Vale manage to lose; and second, slightly different, how did they manage not to win.
The first question is the easier. Chris Neal was punished for his one mistake, while Barry Roche got away with all his. I don`t think I have ever seen a goalkeeper parry the ball back into the middle of the six yard box and get away with it as often as Roche did. His time wasting, however, was world class. If I was him I would definitely have invested in a lottery ticket on Saturday night.
The second question is more complicated. Micky Adams, in a characteristically measured and perceptive post-match interview, identified most of the problems: too slow a start; too many hopeful diagonal balls to players who were tightly marked; too many touches; not enough tempo. The one worrying note struck by Mr Adams was his view that the players weren`t 'at it`, at least until Morecambe had a man sent off on 73 minutes. Mr Adams needs to ask himself why they weren`t 'at it`.
The starting front four, with the partial exception of Hughes, looked as though they were playing from memory. Myrie-Williams had a particularly tetchy game in which he invariably made the wrong decision once he`d beaten his man, which he did increasingly as the second half wore on. I am one of Tom Pope`s biggest fans, but he had an absolute stinker. There was no movement. He never attacked the ball in the box. His body language oozed self-pity. And he failed to bury an inviting header in the first half.
I was worried about the signing of Hughes on football grounds. He and Pope do not look like an effective partnership and it is surely no coincidence that Pope`s goals have dried up since Hughes came into the team. Vincent was as anonymous as he has been for months. Burge put in another towering effort, but he rarely found the right pass, his set piece delivery was barely average and every time an opening appeared in front of goal it was on his 'wrong` foot. Nothing Loft attempts at the moment seems to come off. He and Burge try their hardest, but they don`t look like an effective combination either.
Mr Adams`s post-match analysis does not seem to translate at the moment into an ability to change things effectively during the game. His substitutions were overdue, entirely predictable and difficult to understand. Williamson again showed his potential, almost creating a goal as soon as he came on. It was clear that the Morecambe central defenders, who had a pretty comfortable afternoon on the whole, preferred the ball in the air to on the ground. I fail to see how Shuker can get into the team ahead of Morsy.
There were some good performances. Purse was outstanding. Duffy made a successful move to central defence. And Jones was always a threat going forward.
The game, worryingly, provided a template for what we are likely to get in the remainder of the season, especially at home: opposition of limited ambition; packed defences; a pudding of a pitch. There are too many tired legs and tired minds in the Vale team at the moment. Plan A is no longer working. The next few weeks will be a real test of the squad and, especially, of the manager.