Carol Shanahan will have had much to ponder after witnessing the Vale crumble to a 3-1 defeat against a struggling Walsall side, themselves winless in their previous five matches. A brace from Elijah Adebayo and an unfortunate own goal from David Fitzpatrick was more than enough to cancel out Tom Conlon’s solitary strike and leave the Valiants languishing in sixteenth place of the league table.
Vale started the game brightly and as early as the 2nd minute good work by Jake Taylor in the midfield freed David Amoo down the Vale right, the Winger trying to cross but his effort was charged down for a corner. Worrall, back in the starting line-up, took it short to Conlon, a neat interchange allowing Worrall to get the ball over, but Shaun Brisley’s header was over the bar.
But as the first half started to settle down, Vale’s defensive frailties were again exposed and on six minutes a terrible mistake at the back gifted the visitors an early lead. A simple ball over the Vale defence presented Scott Brown and Nathan Smith a conundrum that simply required a shout from either player, but as both Vale players stood admiring the ball, Adebayo darted between both, calmly side footing into a exposed Vale goal and Walsall led.
Vale tried to respond immediately, Amoo winning a second corner down the Vale right. Worrall again took, this time into the near post where Zak Jules managed to clear at the expense of a third corner. Worrall chose to send this one deep to the back post, but Liam Roberts claimed well above any Vale attacker.
The Visitors buoyed by their perfect start, took charge of the half, Wright taking the first Walsall Corner of the game, and Vale living a little dangerously after a Walsall free kick on 13 minutes. On 20 minutes Vale were lucky to be in the game, Alfie Bates pulling the strings in the vale half, setting Hayden White free in the inside right channel, Worrall was the covering defender but struggled to keep pace with the Winger who strode to the edge of the Vale Box, but his effort was high into the Bycars Stand.
On 27 minutes, good interplay down the Vale Left by Conlon, Fitzpatrick and Worrall allowed the Winger to get a cross into the Walsall Box, the defence stabbing the ball clear, falling to Mills on the edge of the box but his effort bobbled wide of the right hand upright.
But on 33 minutes Vale got back into the game and what a strike it was. An innocuous free kick thirty-five yards out, Conlon surprised everyone with a direct shot on goal. Roberts seemed unsighted as the ball cleared the one-man wall, flying past him into the net, with the ball no more than a yard away from him. Things could have been even better for Vale a minute later as a cross from the Vale left is directed towards Kurtis Gutherie, the attacker getting in front of the defender and looks to head goal wards but despite being clattered from behind, no penalty given.
The visitors started the second half on the front foot, Wesley McDonald doing well for the visitors as he drove forward in the inside right channel, but his build up is let down as he drags his effort on goal wide and it trickles out for a goal kick. Vale had failed to heed the warning on 55 minutes, Walsall advancing down the right, Tyreik Wright cutting in from the right and delivering a perfect cross into the path of Adebayo, who peeled off his defender to poke the ball past Brown and put Walsall back in the lead.
Things got worse for Vale on 67 minutes as Walsall went three – one up. A simple back pass from Fitzpatrick to Brown from the edge of the box forecast no danger as the keeper looked to clear, but as he tried to launch the ball forward, it bobbled and lifted over his foot and trickled into the bottom left-hand corner to sum up perfectly Brown’s day.
Vale huffed and puffed for the remainder of the game and on 90 minutes even had the ball in the net. Worrall sending over a corner, Smith flicking on, and Cullen is there to head home at the back post, but the flag is raised, and it stays 1-3.
It would be cruel to judge either Danny Pugh or Frank Sinclair after the hand they were dealt by Pugh’s Covid-19 isolation this week, but one thing is for sure, Vale need a permanent Manager now or we risk being dragged in to a terrifying battle at the bottom of the table.