It might not have been the Valiants best ‘day in the office’ since the start of the campaign back on the Fifth of September but Skipper Leon Legge and his team will look back on a forth clean sheet (in 90 minutes play) out of seven games and coming through a hard fought match that last season, Vale might have lost one – nil.
Indeed it was Vale that started the brighter of the two teams with Vale profiting from a poor clearance from visiting keeper Joe Cracknell which provided Tom Conlon with a half chance as early as the second minute, the diminutive midfielder taking a touch but his floated effort was just over the bar with Cracknell watching on. Further good work on five minutes from Devante Rodney down the Vale attacking left had him ghosting past defender Will Smith before drilling the ball across the six-yard box but with no white shirts in the box, it was cleared to safety.
Harrogate came more into the game, winning their first corner of the afternoon on nine minutes. George Thomson drilling it over but a powerful header from Leon Legge cleared the immediate danger, before the ball was chipped back in, but Legge was there again to outmuscle Mark Beck and allow the ball to run out for a goal kick.
Vale in fact had the ball in the net on twelve minutes after good work from Devante Rodney down the Vale left, but it was disallowed for quite the obvious push from Worrall at the back post. The visitors thought were coming more and more into the game and on seventeen minutes were awarded a second corner for after a mix up in the Vale defence between Legge and Scott Brown. Again, it was Thomson who took the cross, this time a fine glancing header from Manny Oyeleke averted the danger. The visitors continued to attack; a third corner claimed well by Brown above Beck in the six-yard box.
On the half hour Vale did manage to fashion a couple of chances of their own, Conlon freeing himself, sending over a snap cross, Legge rising above his marker but could only flash his header wide of the right upright. Vale also managed to win their first corner, after a fabulous cross from David Worrall, but no one was on hand in the six-yard box to apply the final touch.
The best chance of the half though fell to the visitors on thirty-six minutes. Joshua Falkingham, who’d been at the centre of most of the positive coming from Harrogate, got the better of Rodney down the attacking right, picking out Beck at the front post having peeled away from Smith, but it was Brown to the rescue again, standing firm on his near post and pushing the header past the post much to the relief of the Valiants defence.
The visitors really should have been in front a few minutes later, this time Beck getting above Legge for the first time, glancing a header goalward but it drifted wide of the left post and Vale survived again.
Vale weren’t without their own chances and Cullen might have done better as the half drew to a close, a long hopeful ball over the top beating the defence allowing the striker to gallop towards goal only to be denied by a retreating defender. The ball fortunately did ricochet to Worrall following up, but his chip was heavy and sailed just over the Town bar.
As the teams came out for the second half, Vale were forced into their first change of the afternoon, Smith reverting to right back as Shaun Brisley replaced the injured Zac Mills. The second half didn’t quite have the start of the first, as the game became scrappy with the visitors edging the balance of play creating half chances but never really testing Brown’s goal.
On the hour, Vale had probably their best passage of play, firstly winning a free kick on the byline. Smith looked to get his head on it by the penalty spot, but it was headed behind for a corner. Worrall drifted the ball again towards the penalty spot, Smith flicking on, but Legge couldn’t quite connect at the back post.
Vales best chance came and went on sixty-four minutes, good work down the right, freed Smith in the Town penalty, the emergency right back then cutting the ball back to Worrall who stretched a boot out, deflecting the ball towards goal but it glanced the post on the wrong side, bouncing out for a Harrogate goal kick.
Vale finally picked up the pace as the game entered the final stages, but despite efforts from Worrall and substitute Theo Robinson, the game was destined to end in a stalemate and by the end both teams were probably happy to hear the full time whistle.
Though the result might not have been what the fans were hoping for, the prospect of Tom Pope, James Gibbons and David Amoo taking part in a ‘behind closed doors’ friendly this week will add even more strength to the current squad, and give fans the hope of a positive result away at Morecambe on Saturday.