“Instrumental” – verdict on Port Vale promotion credentials and Scunthorpe win

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The high winds that had forced the billboards to come loose before kick-off tangled again in this game when Chris Hussey stood over a corner in the 72nd minute.

The wing-back had spotted the ball as carefully as Len Ganley had after clearing the white at the Crucible, so when it was blown forward from two yards, Hussey raised his hand in apology and started his run again. routine.

Place the ball, look up, pull the sock, look again…and connect with a perfect left-footed delivery, gleefully forced over the line at the far post by Nathan Smith.

The only goal of the game came in his greatest moment of precision on an afternoon when the players were buffeted and bounced by the conditions.

Thus, the game was low quality but the goal was of great importance as Vale moved within three points of the play-off places with a game in hand, and relied on the week’s goalless draw. last in Leyton Orient which had itself ended a series of four defeats.

The team are officially on ‘promotion hunts’ again, avoiding each other at least spending the weekend as ‘Port Vale midfielders’ if they failed to beat a team of Scunthorpe who went down with that loss.

Manager Darrell Clarke said: “You have to win games, that’s the nature of the beast. The last eight to ten weeks have been really trying with long-term injuries and the changes we’ve been forced into.

“So the guys are adapting again to what is a fairly new team. It’s a shame, but that’s the way it is. Hopefully a clean sheet last week and this week has steered us in the right direction.

“It was never going to be smooth football. In conditions like that, with our bobbly ground, dead ground, it was never going to be smooth.

“It’s about winning and the guys are committed to winning. I told them at half-time to keep going. There was always frustration because everyone showed up and thought it would be an easy three points. .

“I’ve never managed a game in professional football with three easy points.

“The guys dug today. It was not a great performance, we know that. We have to improve, I know that too.

“But I’m happy with the effort, the commitment and the clean sheet.

“It’s about winning a game against a team that is tearing itself apart and wanting to kill time. You have to dig. You see games like this across the country where you don’t get the three points, so I’m happy with the points today.

Tuesday’s home game against league leaders Forest Green will present a different challenge, or so you’d assume after they extended their lead to ten points by beating second-placed Tranmere 4-0 at Prenton Park.

But Vale can feel they are at least improving and getting back to the levels they showed when they won at Forest Green in August. Let’s not get carried away, they are not yet close to that standard, but are at least close enough to believe that this result actually happened.

That second clean sheet in a row didn’t really come under threat until the 89th minute when the ball broke free on Tyrese Sinclair in the box, but he fired straight into loanee Ipswich keeper Tomas Holy to give the keeper something. thing to do for an otherwise uneventful debut.

Vale had come closer than that before the break when an accurate Hussey corner kick was tipped low by Kian Harratt, the ball going through the goalmouth like a drunken tightrope walker before finally tipping against the base of the far post.

It was a rare moment of excitement in a fairly desperate first half before Vale stepped up after the break and looked at the likeliest winners.

James Wilson contributed to their improvement. The striker was slow to get going on his return from a foot injury, but his second half in particular was a collection of clever touches, movement and control that would have earned him a goal. he hadn’t blocked an effort and then headed just wide. of another Hussey delivery.

Wilson was one of the players who helped Vale become promotion contenders in the first half of the season.

His return to form could be crucial as they enter the second half of the campaign feeling like they are starting all over again after nearly a month off with Covid postponements and a January window in which – until present – ​​seven players have arrived and eight have left the other side.

Clarke added: “It’s tough at the minute. It’s about connections and it won’t happen overnight. Some of the players only met 48 hours ago but it’s a great group to work with.

“When you manage a football club that expects to be higher up the pyramid, you have to control the elements.

“We have to make sure that we stick together as a group. The fans supported us to be fair. They didn’t itch too much because it’s one of those games where everyone expects you to show up and win three or four zeros, comfortably.

“It doesn’t work like that and the conditions certainly didn’t help to be like that.

“But we kept going and we didn’t give up a sloppy goal, which was paramount, and then we got the win with a good free-kick.”

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