As one of Vale’s greatest ever strikers sat in the Stand with a huge smile on his face, Vale’s class of ‘20/21 matched that of the class ‘95/96, the first Vale team to win six back to back league games since Martin Foyle’s side completed their run in March ’96. Despite Morecambe controlling huge swathes of the game, it was a solidary strike from Nathan Smith that not only gave Vale the three points, but put Vale mathematically safe and Manager Darrell Clarke now has the opportunity to look at his Squad as the season draws to a close.
It was highflying Morecambe though that started brightly, a sharp ball from the midfield finding Cole Stockton who controlled the ball well with his chest before shooting to the bottom right hand corner, Scott Brown reading it well though, diving to his left and smothering the ball and making a tough save look easy. Moments later the Shrimpers had strong shouts for a penalty, Stockton progressing well down the right, selling a dummy to Leon Legge and driving the ball across goal to the back post where James Gibbons was tussling with Brad Lyons, the striker going down but referee Antony Coggins waved the appeal away.
It took Vale until the Eighth minute to force their first attack, winning a first corner, then a second, but the second is over worked and the chance fizzled out.
Morecambe applied more pressure on Fifteen minutes, Brown doing well to dive at the feet of Aaron Wildig, before the Vale defence scrambled the ball away and on Seventeen minutes Wildig fired a corner over but Legge headed away powerfully.
But the biggest incident of the game so far occurred on Twenty-Eight minutes, with no interaction from either side, as Antony Coggins brought the game to a temporary halt as heavy snow swept across Vale Park covering all the lines and forcing a Forty-Five minute delay as ground staff cleared the length and breadth of the Vale Park pitch.
The break came at a perfect time for the home side as Manny Oyleke made way for Kurtis Guthrie, Oyleke having picked up an early yellow and been guilty of several fouls during the first half hour. Vale also had the first effort after the enforced break, a throw finding Guthrie in the penalty box, turning his defender and shooting but his effort flashed wide of the right upright.
But Vale were not to be denied and took the lead just minutes later. More good work from Guthrie, this time chasing down the right back, his reward a free kick. Conlon stood over it firing it left footed towards the penalty spot, Smith getting above from his marker Stockton and flicking a header towards the back post leaving Kyle Letheren no chance and Vale led.
On Thirty-Eight Smith continued his good work winning a corner down the Vale left. Worrall took, right footed, placing right in the centre of the goal but Keeper Letheren did well and caught cleanly above the melee in front of him and as the half drew to a close Guthrie did well in his defensive third sensing the danger from a quick free kick and only conceding a corner which the visitors wasted.
The second half kicked off with a second change for the Valiants as Jake Taylor entered the fray, on for Theo Robinson. It was Vale that had the first effort of the second half, a long free kick from Brown was met my Legge but it lacked power and Keeper Letheren collected with ease.
Morecambe though came back into the game and on Fifty minutes they fashioned a good chance, sharp play down the left before the balled was crossed towards Stockton who headed it cleanly but over the bar and Vale still led. It could have gone all wring for Vale two minutes later as the visitors had a second penalty shout for a dubious challenge in the box but again referee Coggins waved them away, much to the relief of the men in white.
As the game passed the hour mark, Morecambe enjoyed their best period of the second half, winning a Corner, headed clear with Worrall completing the clearance. On Sixty-Four minutes another good chance for the visitors, this time a free kick from the right, sent towards the back post where Gomes flicked a header just wide of the left post. On Sixty-Six Morecambe secured another Corner, this time from the left flank. Again it was sent over and again the Vale defence held firm clearing their lines much to Manager Clarke’s pleasure.
The introduction of David Amoo on Seventy-Six minutes, Luke Joyce making way, sparked Vale into life winning a corner down the attacking right, Conlon sending it over but it was cleared at the front post. Vale continued to press winning a corner on Eighty-Eight minutes after good play from Amoo and Guthrie. Amoo took it short to Guthrie who tried to keep it in the corner but the obvious goal kick was the result but valuable time was wasted to allow Vale to ease to their sixth win of six and another three points in this topsy-turvey season.