So on a beatifully sunny afternoon at the Park City are once again outmuscled, outfought and outthought losing 2-0 to a very physical and hard working Port Vale side in an almost identical fashion to last week's capitulation to Bristol Rovers in front of 3938 disappointed supporters. City lined up: Evans; Woodman, Baldwin, Coles, Amankwaah; Davies, Oakely, Doherty, Tully; O'Flynn, Cureton.
Surprisingly, given the free scoring nature of both sides, it took fully 15 minutes for either side to register anything of note in front of goal. Tully collected the ball on the right and sent a fizzing drive from 25 yards to the keeper's right that he could only parry, but as Cureton looked to follow up the move was ended by the referee's whistle for a hand ball by Tully in the build up to the shot. The next effort came on the half hour with a Woodman free kick from 30 yards out, but it was always rising from the moment it left his boot with the keeper merely an interested spectator as it sailed harmlessly over the bar.
A minue later Oakley and Doherty combined well through the middle to find O'Flynn out wide on the left. He cut back in to the corner of the box and let fly with a good looking shot, unfortunately it hit a defender on the way looping up towards the keeper, but with all the sting taken out of it from the deflection, it was an easy collect. But typically having had the better of the play it was inevitable - especially at home - that the visitors would take the lead, and so it was with six minutes of the half remaining the defence conceded the sort of soft goal that a kids' team would be embarrassed by.
Turning Woodman this way and that Elliott Chamberlain made brisk progress down the Vale right eventually finding himself, unchallenged, at the byline. Coles spotted the danger and rushed across, but Chamberlain merely side stepped nonchalantly before standing a cross to where Coles should have been towards the back post. With no defenders within yards Tom Pope had the goal to himself nodding home the easiest goal he'll score this season from a couple of yards out to put Vale 1-0 up, a lead they'd comfortably take to the break.
The second half started with City pushing hard for an equaliser, but progress was stuttering with a combination of Port Vale timewasting and the referee seemingly deeming every City challenge to be a foul. However, they persevered and eventually worked an opening on the quarter hour. Tully advanced with purpose before sending Amankwaah charging inside with a delicious defence splitter. Amankwaah then drilled in a low cross to poacher supreme Cureton, but his tenth goal of the season just wasn't to be as his first time snapshot whizzed inches past the near post. A minute later Coles sent the most outrageous cross field ball from deep to Tully steaming in at the far post. Beating his defender with ease Tully met the ball on the full butting a bullet header onto the bar and away. With the bar still rattling Vale worked the ball to Ashley Vincent down the left who as with Vale's opening goal was allowed to effortlessly make his way down the touchline. With Amankwaah stranded upfield Vincent had time and space aplenty to chip the ball to the far post where Pope rose highest to head home his second of the afternoon from close range to put the visitors 2-0 up.
Vale nearly got a third a couple of minutes later when Pope shot from the edge of the box, but Evans was sharp and came rushing out to block. Midway through the half O'Flynn and the rapidly tiring Doherty were replaced by Bauza and Keohane, then a few minutes later Tully made way for Sercombe, but still City struggled to find a way past a solid and well drilled Vale defence. In the 36th minute City finally gave the keeper something to do when Sercombe's whipped in free kick from the right was glanced across goal by Bauza, however the keeper showed great athleticism in diving full stretch to his right to turn it behind the goal for a corner. City's final chance, despite nearly six minutes of stoppage time, came in the 41st minute, but Bauza's low drive was straight at the keeper and, rather like the afternoon as a whole, a little to weak to cause any problems.
Yet despite all that we somehow remain in fourth spot in the division! Of course second would have been better had we won, but it would have been a false position give home performances so far this season. Indeed, today's defeat is the fifth in eight home games if you include the cup defeats to Crystal Palace and Aldershot, but it's all the more frustrating given just how well we've performed on our travels, winning four out of the five matches we've played away from the Park this season. But, and it's a pretty big but, if the home and away performances were swapped we'd all be saying what a good season we're having so far, and to be up there in such a strong position with almost a quarter of the season gone is not something we can complain about too much.
Hopefully manager Tisdale will find a way to turn the home form around and make the opposition earn any points they might get and if he can do that we could have a very good season indeed, but until then lets hope for a confidence boosting performance next weekend at Northampton before we entertain Chesterfield here at the Park in a fortnight.