There’s no need for panic. We’re second for a reason

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It’s squeaky bum time, then. Three defeats in a week has left some people wondering whether or not we have misread the omens.

Fans are asking where the free-flowing football has gone.

Supporters want to know what has happened to the team that put 11 goals past promotion rivals in two games.

Have we been found out? Are we perhaps not as good as we think we are?

Is this where the wheels come off?

Despite the recent poor run of results I’m still optimistic.

We’re second for a reason and there’s absolutely no need to panic at this stage.

I’m not denying that there are issues, however.

It worries me that our defence is so slow. It concerns me that if teams double up on our wingers then we don’t seem to have a Plan B going forward.

Clearly some players are below par at the moment and, for whatever reason, their confidence has dipped.

The reaction of a section of the home crowd to last Saturday’s dismal performance against Chesterfield was perfectly understandable.

Vale fans will take defeat if the team give it their all and look like they want to win the game.

Away against Sheffield United in the FA Cup no-one could fault the endeavour shown.

But against both Bradford in the JPT and, more disappointingly, the Spireites in the league we were second best.

They were the better-organised teams who, crucially, looked like they wanted the win more.

It is for Micky Adams to decide whether or not the players who are under-performing require the carrot or the stick.

There are some – like Tom Pope and Chris Neal – whose inclusion on the team sheet is a no-brainer.

But how many others, at present, can claim they deserve a guaranteed start?

We’ve not seen much of Calvin Andrew yet but I would prefer to see Louis Dodds reinstated into the attack alongside the Pontiff.

Although he hasn’t scored many goals this season, Dodds’s link-up play and tracking back is crucial, for me.

We’ll miss Jennison Myrie-Williams tomorrow but should still have enough quality and attacking options to get a result against Cheltenham.

The away trip to Rotherham will provide a stern test but the home games against Wimbledon and Dagenham and Redbridge are eminently winnable.

You see, it’s not all doom and gloom. Last week I told Popey he’d score 35 goals this season and I’m sticking with that prediction.

It’s a time for cool heads, a little faith and some encouragement for the lads as the tough December fixture list continues.

Read my Port Vale articles in The Sentinel every Friday during the season

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Midfield key to Vale getting back to winning ways


It’s been a week of mixed fortunes and mixed performances.
In truth, we’d have probably taken four points from two games which included a difficult away trip to Bradford.
But to steal three points off the in-form Bantams only to then turn in our worst showing of the season at home to struggling Dagenham certainly wasn’t what most of us expected.
First came the relief of a precious clean sheet and a hard-fought victory in which Chris Neal once again showed himself to be the best ’keeper we’ve had since Mark Goodlad.
Meanwhile, goal number nine for the Pontiff underlined just how far Sneyd Green’s finest has come since the departure of Messrs Richards and Rigg.
On Tuesday night I honestly expected us to put three or four past the Daggers and couldn’t see anything other than our wingers running them ragged.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Aside from a purple patch which lasted for about 10 minutes before the half time interval, Vale were pretty awful.
So bad, in fact, that we made the visitors – who had initially seemed incapable of tying their own bootlaces – look vaguely OK by the final whistle.
Granted, their keeper played extremely well in the first period and kept them in it with a string of fine saves.
However, aside from the notable exceptions of Tom Pope, Jennison Myrie-Williams and John McCombe, I thought the whole Vale side was poor throughout – including the usually impeccable Doug Loft.
Chris Neal can surely be forgiven his almighty clanger, in view of his good form up ‘til that moment.
However, there really is no excuse for the way in which we lost our shape and the ability to string two passes together as they game wore on.
We’re still second but it does concern me that we haven’t been firing on all cylinders in the last three games.
Gone is the free-flowing football that saw us batter promotion hopefuls Rotherham and Fleetwood.
Where we seem to be losing the battle is in the centre of midfield and I was surprised to see Sam Morsy and Ryan Burge both start on Tuesday night.
For my money, our best pairing in the middle is Doug Loft and Chris Shuker – with Rob Taylor at left back.
In many ways the draw against Dagenham probably did more to damage morale in the camp than the defeat against Gillingham.
Perhaps the lads were feeling the after-effects of Saturday’s Alamo at Valley Parade.
Either way, hopefully Sir Micky of Burslem will have sorted their heads out by tomorrow and normal service can be resumed.

RAF’s returning Afghan heroes to lead Vale stars out on to pitch

Port Vale is rolling out the red carpet for two servicemen who recently returned from war-torn Afghanistan.

Corporal Steve Buffey and his pal Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Pete Blakeman will have the honour of leading out the teams before tomorrow night’s home game against Dagenham and Redbridge.

Together with their families, the two die-hard Vale supporters will then be treated to a VIP match experience.

The friends are part of the close-knit team in the RAF Tactical Supply Wing which is based at Stafford.

While in Afghanistan, the unit was stationed at Camp Bastion, and was responsible for refuelling battlefield helicopters and Harrier jump jets.

They kept their morale up with regular updates from home on the fortunes of their team and through banter with another member of the team – 22-year-old SAC Alex Haycock, from Sandyford, who is an ardent Stoke City fan.

Father-of-two Cpl Buffey, aged 36, grew up in Kidsgrove but now lives in Stafford.

He is a former Clough Hall High School pupil who joined the RAF 13 years ago after working in the pottery industry.

SAC Blakeman, aged 29, who lives in Cheadle, signed up four years and is due to marry his fiancée Natalie Holdcroft in May of next year.

The idea to treat the RAF personnel to a special night at Vale Park came from users of internet fans’ forum Onevalefan (OVF).

Founder and Editor Rob Fielding explained: “Steve and Pete are users of OVF who had been corresponding with me during their recent tour of Afghanistan.

“The OVF community felt it would be really nice to honour them on their return to the UK and the club have been brilliant about it and really made an effort.

“Fingers crossed the lads can get three points for Steve and Pete.

“We are also going to use the match as an opportunity to raise funds for forces charity Help For Heroes.”

Club Secretary Bill Lodey said: “We were only too happy to help in these circumstances and pay our own special tribute to lads who are risking their lives out in the Middle East.

“We want to give them a night to remember and have other surprises planned too.

“Rob Fielding has volunteered to collect for Help For Heroes from fans in the away end and family members and friends of Cpl Buffey and SAC Blakeman will have collection tins around the other stands.

“It is a very worthy cause and we know that Vale fans will respond with their usual generosity.”