Vale responded positively after back to back defeats with a complete performance based on a solid defensive display and goals from midfield duo Tom Pett and Ben Garrity. Vale made four changes, Nathan Smith (Birth of his child), Tom Conlon (Suspended), Dan Jones & Dennis Politic dropping out with Brad Walker, Ryan Johnson, Aaron Martin and Devante Rodney all starting.
The Valiants tried to start the game as they meant to go on, winning a corner down the right on six minutes. Worrall’s corner was headed clear but Vale keep the pressure on and won a second corner, though poor delivery allowed the Pool defence to clear at the near post.
Minutes later the Valiants created a half chance, the ball breaking free in the midfield and Vale pushed forward through Garrity who strode forward and released Worrall who shot first time from twenty-five yards out but it was always rising over the bar and the ball found its way into the Bycars Stand.
The visitors made their first impact of the game on fifteen minutes, winning their first corner down the right. Ferguson took it left footed from the right, but it was poor and was straight into the side netting under the close supervision of Lucas Covolan in the Vale goal.
On the half hour Pool won a free kick, wide left, around thirty yards from goal. Ferguson bent it towards goal, Gary Liddle had pulled off his defender, but missed his header completely when it was easier to score.
Liddle and Hartlepool were made to pay for that miss just moments later as Vale took the lead but not without a hint of good fortune. Vale won the battle in midfield and the ball broke to Tom Pett, the stand in skipper for the day advanced a few yards before feeding a ball through the static ‘Pool defence, Amoo reaching it just before it ran out of play and crossed in one movement towards the six yard box. Garrity had gambled arriving into the six yard box, and almost running into the ball as it bobbled over the line having hit both his shins on the way in.
On thirty-eight minutes Vale had another effort on goal, this time it was Worrall who was feed the ball in the inside right channel, the winger taking a touch before standing up the left back as he shot goalward, Ben Killip having everything behind it and gathered at his near post.
The visitors continued to search for an equaliser and won a corner from the attacking left on forty-four minutes. Nicky Featherstone sent it across, Covolan just helping the ball on the way for a second corner. Ferguson again sent it in, but the Vale defence held firm and the ball was cleared.
The first chance of the second half fell to the Valiants, good work down the right allowed Worrall to get a cross in, the ball ricocheting to Walker twenty five yards out but his effort blazed over the bar into the Hamil End. Vale continued their good build up play winning a corner from the attacking right, Worrall crossing it in but it was cleared and the chance was gone. Worrall came to the rescue in the sixty-fifth, conceding a corner when Hartlepool looked like they’d breached the Vale backline, the corner coming to nothing and it remained 0-0.
On sixty-eight the Valiants put together a really good passage of play, a long ball over the ‘Pool defence sent Amoo away into the attacking half, before he cut the ball back to Gibbons. The left back dinked the ball into the path of Garrity who in turn fed the ball back towards Pett, who struck it first time, but it was high over the bar from twenty yards.
On seventy minutes, the visitors really should have got back on level terms, attacking down the left after Pett was left on the ground after a physical challenge, the visitors continued to drive forward and as the ball reached the penalty area Cullen might have done better when well placed.
As the clock ticked into the last ten minutes of regular time Vale attacked down the right, the ball finding its way to Amoo who advanced down the inside right channel before driving his effort just wide of the right upright. A minute later it could easily have been two for the Vale but a James Gibbons effort was well saved by Killip.
But on the stroke of full time Vale finally put the game to bed, Pett picking up the ball on the right corner of the penalty box and running at the tiring ’Pool defence. The midfielder traversed the edge of the penalty box, avoiding two or three challenges before hitting a left footed effort which caught Killip off guard and nestled in the back of the net to give the Valiants the three points.
Vale will face much tougher games over the next week as they switch focus from the League to the EFL Trophy and FA Cup respectively. Two “Away” trips to League One opposition, through Rotherham and Burton, will be a major chance for manager Darryl Clarke to see just how much progress this squad has made since August.