View From the Bycars
At half-time yesterday it looked as though Mark Grew`s statement that there was 'no crisis at Vale Park` would come back to haunt him. If Vale needed three more wins to guarantee safety in League 1 before yesterday`s game, Carlisle United at home looked like one of the most winnable. For the first thirty-six minutes the performance of Graham Kavanagh`s ragbag collection of loanees and re-treads did nothing to suggest that this was an unfair assessment.
Mr Kavanagh set his team up conservatively, to be solid and 'get something` on the break or from a set piece. He clearly had not studied Vale`s recent games, when every team that had a go at us won. Even though Vale were abysmal again it was difficult to see Carlisle scoring. But this is to underestimate Vale`s capacity to gift goals, which at the moment looks like the gift that cannot stop giving. On thirty-six minutes Griffith gave away a cretinous foul on a Carlisle player, who was near the touchline with his back to goal, thirty yards out. A totally unthreatening situation was turned into a potentially threatening free-kick. The ball was whipped in to the far post. Pope had tracked back with the overweight Meppen-Walter, but failed to pick him up in the box, leaving the defender unmarked and with a simple header, which he duly buried. This was symptomatic of the goals that Vale have been conceding.
Mr Adams may agree with his Assistant Manager that there is no crisis, but his team selections make it apparent that he knows there is a problem. Unfortunately, whenever he makes a change of personnel, especially in midfield, the players who come in perform just as badly as the ones who he leaves out. Other than the excellent Duffy (my Man of the Match), Robertson and Neal, no Vale player did well in the first half. Chimbonda, who I had always dismissed as an overpaid sulker, had Pope in his pocket. Williamson was conspicuous only by his inconspicuousness. Even Grimmer struggled, despite Amoo having always to turn on to his right foot. Birchall did nothing to suggest that he has been underused this season.
The second half started no better. Carlisle might have scored twice in the first ten minutes, but Neal kept us in the game and with substitutes lining up to come on Williamson picked the ball up in Carlisle`s right hand corner, turned, ran into the box, twisted and turned again leaving two Carlisle defenders bemused, and smashed the ball into the net at the near post. The substitutes sat down. This goal changed the game. Williamson became a different player. His surging runs created space for Pope and Myrie-Williams. Suddenly, Chimbonda was like the little Dutch boy trying to stop the dyke from breaking single-handedly. A second goal looked inevitable. Myrie-Williams finally found a pinpoint cross from which Pope produced a conclusive header. Although the rest of the game was not without alarms, Vale saw it out reasonably professionally. For this relief, much thanks.