Port Vale travel to leaders Newport looking to recover from back to back home defeats. Over to our fans’ panel of Mark Walton, Wayne Windsor and Eddie Jackson.
WHAT’S YOUR TEAM?
MARK WALTON: “Our lack of creativity and struggle to compensate for Joyce’s absence are becoming serious concerns. I’d start with much the same 11 as finished Tuesday’s match and switch to 4-2-3-1 with McKirdy out wide and Worrall playing off Rodney who is this week’s striker to get a turn up front after Cullen failed his latest audition.
“Burgess is a tad unlucky to miss out and Fitzpatrick returns at left back. Brown, Clark, Smith, Legge, Fitzpatrick, Oyeleke, Conlon, Worrall, McKirdy, Amoo, Rodney.”
WAYNE WINDSOR: “After a recent run of poor performances and results all at home I would hope for a change of formation just to see if our luck changes.
I would go with a 3 5 2 formation as follows
Legge Brisley Smith
Clarke Mckirdy Oyeleke Conlon Monty
Visser, Crookes, Rodney, Cullen, Hurst, Burgess, Fitzpatrick
“Monty and Clarke obviously bombing up and down the wings as both are a threat going forward. Solid back three with Oyeleke sitting, allowing Mckirdy and Conlon to move forward to support Pope. Maybe Wozza running the channels, with him, Clarke, Monty and Mckirdy all able to supply crosses for Tom.
There would be an option to take off either Mckirdy or Conlon, drop Wozza back there and put Rodney or Cullen up top to partner Tom.”
EDDIE JACKSON: “Given the recent home results and performances I suppose change is inevitable. Will John Askey make a change of system or personnel or both? I doubt he will go 442 at Newport of all places. Probably 433 again with one striker and two wingers. I’ll go with Brown, Clark, Legge, Smith, Montano, Oyeleke, Conlon, Amoo, McKirdy, Pope, Worrall.
“We need goals so I have put McKirdy in to play behind Pope in view of the fact that Harry is a player who can rattle defenders.”
WHAT’S YOUR PREDICTION?
MARK WALTON: “If we had won the last two league games this would be a top of the table clash. Instead it’s the worst fixture we could face after a run of three demoralising defeats in four. I foresee another one here, 2-0 to the Exiles.”
WAYNE WINDSOR: “Obviously a tough game against a good strong team who I think will be up there all season.
“Away from home doesn’t seem to make a difference to teams at the moment, only the fact that it’s up to the home team to press for the win which might actually help our boys on the break as in the last three games we were the team doing the pressing which proved difficult against eight or nine defensive minded players.
“I am hoping for a reaction and maybe a 1-1 or 2-2 that’s what my heart says anyway!”
EDDIE JACKSON: “Newport are top of the table. Neither side is exactly prolific as regards goals. I’ll be uncharacteristically positive and predict a 1-1 draw.”
ANY OTHER BUSINESS?
MARK WALTON: “There were positives to take from last Saturday’s epic, a lot more, to be fair, than in Tuesday’s dismal showing. We scored three in the league for the first time this season and Amoo’s goal was the cleverest corner routine for years.
“But we still lost and while that was partly due to some poor defending, most of the blame has been laid at the feet of referee Carl Brook.
“Yet no two people could agree on all his decisions; Vale’s own manager and captain took differing views on Joyce’s sending-off, for instance.
“My feeling, having calmed down, is that it was one of those mad, flawed games that make football the greatest sport and which we’ll have to live with unless we want VAR at every level.
“VAR is fine if it sticks to its ‘clear and obvious’ remit, as with Fernandinho’s goal-line handball against Chelsea last season. Instead its mantra has become ‘how can we rule out this goal?’ which recently saw Patrick Bamford adjudged offside for the crime of pointing.
“Added to that is the dog’s dinner of the current handball law which can settle a match for the merest accidental brush of ball on arm.
“There’s a wider, almost romantic aspect to this – are mistakes as much a part of football as triumphs?
“Would Geoff Hurst’s second strike in 1966 have counted if there was goal-line technology? VAR, you hope, would have chalked off the Hand of God goal. On the other, er, hand, such scrutiny might have seen Vale in the FA Cup final in 1954.
“Either we want a sanitised version of the sport with every decision ruled ‘correct’ to some impossible objective standard or we take results like the Tranmere game on the chin, move on and hope the next ref is better. We wouldn’t be complaining if we’d won.
“One thing is certain after last weekend’s injury time defeat – we now know how Huddersfield fans felt in 2008.”
WAYNE WINDSOR: “It’s a tough job being a manager, reading all the social media reactions after the recent games, seeing and hearing what fans think, one thing I know is that the players don’t go out there and only give 80-90%, they do try to give their all which is all we as fans ask for.
“Picking players to play in a certain formation is easy when we are getting results but when when we lose an influential player like Joycey then maybe we have to change the formation around a little.
“Playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday can’t help with preparation or even a change of formation but I’m sure whatever the manager chooses to do will be in the best interest of Port Vale Football Club and so let’s try to see the bigger picture as we have only played 12 games and we sit eighth. Let’s take another look after Christmas and see where we are then.
“Keep the faith…”
EDDIE JACKSON: “One common factor about Vale losing at home to Tranmere and Scunthorpe is that both opponents can be described as bogey sides. It makes no difference where they are placed in the league in relation to us the result often seems very predictable with Vale on the receiving end.
“Tranmere have won their last two here and often beat us at Vale Park in the sixties and seventies. Scunthorpe have lost one of their last seven games at Vale and we have not won a league game at their place since 1973.
“Walsall also had a tremendous record against us, home and away, over many years so I was glad to be present at the Bescot Stadium when Vale finally ended a long run of disappointments in November 2013. Over the whole history between the two clubs Vale have won 20, 24 have been drawn and Walsall have won 36.
“By way of contrast Vale have proved to be a bogey side to a few clubs. Leyton have a poor record against us with 18 league wins to our 32. I must also mention a very significant FA Cup victory over Leyton. It came on 13th March 1954. Does that ring any bells amongst older supporters? It came in the 6th Round of the FA Cup when both sides were in the old Third North and Third South. Vale won 1-0 at their Brisbane Road ground in front of 31000 fans to enter the FA Cup Semi-final as a Third Division side. My soccer annual for Christmas 1954 showed a picture of the Vale goal with the words ‘Leake’s shot evades Groombridge to find the far corner’! Happy days!
“Our record against Rochdale is also outstanding as Rochdale have never won a league game at any Vale ground. Bristol Rovers have won only twice in over 30 appearances at Vale and don’t forget, as if we could, that Vale won the Third Division Play-off Final against The Gas in the 2nd Leg at Vale Park in 1989.
“Vale have won the last three home and away games against Crewe, all by 1-0, but before that Crewe had won six of the previous ten encounters at Vale Park. Vale did have a remarkable run of eighteen league games without defeat against them between 1969/70 and 1996/97. Another curiosity. Vale won three years in a row at Doncaster in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17, all with the same referee, Geoff Eltringham.
“Finally, mighty Spurs have never won at Vale Park. Well, I suppose I should mention that we have only played them once at our place, on a famous day in 1988.
“I have never seen anyone come up with a satisfactory explanation of why some sides just cannot succeed against other sides, especially if one of them is a generally more successful club than the bogey side. Managers and players change yet the bogey still seems to make a difference when certain sides meet each other regardless of current form or league position. Perhaps the awareness that one side is the bogey side of the other gets into the minds of the players and they are beaten before they start.”