Port Vale produced arguably their worst performance of the season on their way to a 2-0 defeat at home to struggling Barrow.
John Askey had, quite reasonably, made the point in recent weeks that poor defending and soft goals conceded had been undermining decent overall performances from his side. But Vale offered little going forward here while still showing the same defensive weaknesses as their poor league run was extended to just five points from a possible 30.
The defeat leaves them in 17th but it was the desperate performance that was more damning of any hopes of reaching the play-offs.
Barrow kicked off the game third-from-bottom but were undoubtedly the better side, helped on their way by former Vale striker Scott Quigley’s opener on 23 minutes. Patrick Brough added a second on 50 minutes to give the Vale what looked like a mountainous task.
They at least threatened through half time substitute David Amoo but offered too little to have got anything from the game.
Askey had made two changes to the side beaten 3-2 at Walsall last week as Leon Legge and Tom Conlon were replaced by Adam Crookes and Danny Whitehead.
Conlon is having to isolate but Legge paid the price for Vale’s poor defending at the Bank’s Stadium when Askey was critical of both his centre halves, Legge and Nathan Smith.
The change made little difference as Vale offered comfortably their weakest performance since the defeat at Stevenage a month ago.
PORT VALE 0
BARROW 2 (Quigley, 23, Brough 50)
PORT VALE 56%
PORT VALE 10 (2 on target)
BARROW 8 (3 on target)
PORT VALE 5
PORT VALE 17
REFEREE: Samuel Barrott 7
Port Vale: Amoo (foul, 89)
Barrow: James (obstructing a free kick, 16). Beading (foul, 19)
BROWN: Not at fault for the goals. Made a decent second half save to deny Quigley. 6
MILLS: Still to convince. The right back struggled as Barrow had some joy down his side 4
SMITH: Beaten too easily by Quigley for the opener 4
CROOKES: Called up to the side as Leon Legge was dropped to the bench. Started off well but then unconvincing as the Vale looked nervy at the back. 5
FITZPATRICK: Vale’s best defender of late but even he was below par 5
JOYCE: Not at his best. Trying to play his way back into form but maybe affected by the uncertainty in the defence behind him 5
BURGESS: Plenty of energy but didn’t really threaten apart from a deflected second-half strike 5
WHITEHEAD: Not easy coming in for a first start since October, especially with the team struggling. Even so, he was ineffective 4
HURST: Started well on the left but faded before he was taken off. He’s generally played well though since getting his chance in the side over the last few weeks. 5
POPE: Didn’t threaten but the service to him was desperately poor 5
RODNEY: Like Hurst, he’s impressed in recent weeks but was well short of his best here 5
AMOO (Whitehead, 45): Vale’s main hope after the break. Repeatedly beat his man down the right, threatened with an early shot and got some decent balls into the box 7
ROBINSON (Hurst, 61): Brought on to try to force a goal but, apart from Amoo, Vale created very little 5
Not used: Legge, Brisley, McKirdy, Bailey, Visser.
Barrow : Dixon, Hird, Platt, Brough, Brown, Beadling, Taylor, Kay (Wilson, 89), Biggins (Taylor, 84), Quigley, James.
Subs: Lillis, Jones, Angus, Reid.