Port Vale climbed a place to 18th , but it was painful progress in tonight’s goalless draw at home to Stevenage.
The Vale are ten points clear of the relegation zone after a scrappy game in which neither side really did enough to claim they were worth the three points.
Manager Darrell Clarke said: “Quality – shocking at times. Effort and commitment – excellent. But nowhere near good enough for me on the quality. It is nowhere near where I am eventually going to take this football club so let’s not paper over those cracks.
“But I am trying to build a solid base here and you can start with that by getting clean sheets. This is a bit of a starting point. I thought we defended well as a team, the lads worked hard but a game lacking in real quality.”
Clarke brought in Leon Legge, Cristian Montano, Jake Taylor and Will Swan as Mustapha Olagunju, Alex Hurst and Kurtis Guthrie dropped to the bench and Dave Worrall missed out with the ankle injury he suffered in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient in Clarke’s first game.
The manager also produced a new formation, switching to 3-5-2 after starting 4-4-2 at Leyton Orient. That in itself was a departure from the 4-3-3 Vale played regularly under former manager John Askey.
Scott Burgess, who came on in first half injury time after Luke Joyce picked up a knock, came closest to finding a winner for Vale as his volley swerved inches wide.
But although Vale created little, they did look solid in defence with Legge commanding in the back three on his first league start since he was sent off at Mansfield on January 2 in Askey’s final game as manager.
Scott Brown was rarely troubled on his way to keeping a clean sheet but Vale will reflect they gave visiting keeper Jamie Cumming a straightforward evening.
Vale now face a tough run of fixtures, at home to leaders Cambridge on Saturday followed by back-to-back away games, at seventh-placed Salford and third-placed Cheltenham.