Port Vale were looking hopefully to the future on this day, April 9, in 2016, but their opponents had a fair idea of their own fate.
Vale were entertaining a Crewe side who were about to be relegated to League Two – and, as you would expect, there wasn’t much sympathy in the home ends when Rob Page’s side beat the neighbours at a canter.
Besides, after defeats at home to Crewe for each of the two previous seasons, it was a pleasant change for the Vale faithful not to have to watch the Alex players and staff capering over the pitch after another win in Burslem.
A third successive victory on Vale turf was always a long shot considering Crewe had won only one of their previous 20 games. It became an out-of-range shot after two minutes and 10 seconds when the Alex failed to clear a corner, allowing Richard Duffy to play the ball to Louis Dodds who drilled left footer across Ben Garratt and inside the far post from 12 yards.
This was just the start Page had demanded after his team shipped four goals in the second half to lose 4-2 at Chesterfield the previous week.
Vale looked capable of winning this game in the opening 15 minutes, but having only got the one goal, their tempo dropped and Crewe gradually began to play their way back into the game.
The trouble for the visitors was that, even during their best spell, in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, they still didn’t look much like scoring.
This was watched by just 549 Crewe fans, not a great following but an understandable one considering they were paying for the prospect of watching their team relegated or, at best, only prolonging the agony for a little longer.
At only 1-0, there was always the chance that Crewe would be making the 14-mile journey home with a point, but that hope was extinguished seven minutes from time after Carl Dickinson rolled a free-kick across to Sam Foley whose clever flick released JJ Hooper in the area. The substitute’s shot was blocked but the rebound dropped to Dodds who walloped the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards.
Cue celebrations in three sides of the ground, a flare and more despair at the other.
Dodds returned the favour in injury time, sending an excellent through ball to Hooper who did the rest as he shifted the ball on to his right foot and bent it across the keeper and into the far corner.
Vale fans celebrated by saluting their manager Rob ‘He’s got no hair but we don’t care’ Page.
There were also a few blasts of ‘We’ll never play you again’ towards the travelling supporters – although home supporters would have known that was unlikely.
In fact, the rivalries were resumed after a break of just one season.
This win lifted the Vale to 12th, where they would finish the campaign and hope to build for the following season.
However, manager Page, whose relationship with owner Norman Smurthwaite had deteriorated badly, moved on to Northampton at the end of the season.
A now infamous experiment followed as the Vale brought in players untested in the English lower divisions. New manager Bruno Ribiero lost his job half way through the following season and the Vale went down under Michael Brown.
Of the Vale starting line up for this 3-0 win at home to Crewe, Carl Dickinson, Richard Duffy, Michael O’Connor, Louis Dodds and Ajay Leitch Smith all left at the end of the season – and Jak Alnwick and Anthony Grant departed in the next January transfer window.
PORT VALE 3
Port Vale: Alnwick, Dickinson, Streete, Duffy, Purkiss, Foley, O’Connor (Brown, 82), Grant, Kelly (Moore, 53), Dodds, Leitch-Smith (Hooper, 64).
Subs: McGivern, Birchall, Boot, Robinson.
Crewe: Garratt, Ray, Turton, Davis, Guthrie (Bingham, 45), Bakayogo, Jones (Cooper, 77), Kirk, Fox, Udoh (Ainley, 45), Haber.
Subs: Hitchcock, Nugent, Richards, Dalla, Valle.