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🔎 The Opposition: Port Vale (H)

Joe Glanville takes an in-depth look at Saturday's opponents

11 April 2019

Macclesfield Town came out on top in a five-goal thriller in City’s previous league fixture. The Grecians had taken the lead twice, courtesy of a Ryan Bowman brace, but were pegged back on both occasions as the sides went in at the break level 2-2.

After a scintillating first half the Silkmen then stole all three points, with Harry Smith grabbing a late winner and his second of the game. A positive evening’s work for Macclesfield, though Exeter will rue a missed opportunity to make up ground on their promotion rivals.

The Grecians can set the score right on Saturday when they welcome Port Vale to St James Park. Here’s everything you need to know about them...

  • Founded: 1876
  • Nickname: The Vale
  • Honours: Third Division champions: 1929/30 & 1953/54. Fourth Division champions: 1958/59. Football League Trophy: 1993 & 2001

One of the oldest clubs in England and second only to Notts County, Port Vale were founded in 1876 and took the name ‘Port Vale’ from the name of the meeting venue where the club was born. After a move that transpired eight years later, they adopted the name ‘Burslem Port Vale’ and it was not until 1907 that they reverted to their former name.

Their nickname is quite simply the Vale, while they are also known by the more thrilling ‘Valiants’. The Vale’s first piece of silverware came in 1930 when they won the Third Division title, straight off the back of relegation the season prior.

A year later they finished 5th in Division Two which would represent their highest ever finish to this date. Port Vale had to wait over 20 years for their next cup triumph, which saw them claim the Third Division title once more in 1954.

A Fourth Division title followed suit just five years later, though that is the last occasion the Vale have won a league title in any division. They have had more joy in the cups though by winning the Football League Trophy in 1993 and 2001.

The manager

John Askey

John Askey has only been in charge since February after taking over from the dismissed Neil Aspin, following a poor run of results. There were initial teething problems, as the Vale lost their opening four games under Askey, but the previous seven fixtures have heralded just one loss.

In his playing days Askey was a dangerous winger, who forged a career very much in the image of a one club man. A former product of the Port vale academy, Askey went on to enjoy an illustrious 19-year career at Macclesfield, making over 500 appearances for the Silkmen.

He retired in 2003 after winning two Conference titles and two Player of the Year awards and went on to enhance his legendary status by managing the side for five years between 2013 and 2018. That five-year stint included National League glory, before joining Shrewsbury Town at the beginning of the season.

The ground

  • Name: Vale Park
  • Capacity: 19,052
  • Year opened: 1950
  • Address: Vale Park, Hamil Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 1AW

Despite their lengthy existence, Port Vale have only played at Vale Park since 1950 – some 70-odd years after their foundation.

The club can rival most of their League Two counterparts when it comes to being steeped in history and they can certainly rival them in the stadium stakes also. Vale Park can seat over 19,000 people and in the days of terraces, that figure would rise as high as 49,768 in 1960, when Aston Villa came to town in a fifth round FA Cup tie.

The stadium has also hosted over historic matches such as a 2-0 win over Stanley Matthews’ Blackpool and a 2-1 FA Cup win over the competitions reigning champions, Everton.

One to watch

Nathan Smith

With the club renowned for their watertight defence, opposed to a deadly attack, it is only fair to single out the formidable Nathan Smith as the Vale’s key man.

At just 23-years-old, Smith has already established himself as one of the division’s top defenders with Port Vale conceding the sixth least amount of goals in the league – despite languishing in 18th place. The centre back has cemented himself as a mainstay in the team, winning a Player of the Year award and rising out of the Vale’s academy.

Recent form guide

Port Vale can take confidence from their recent form, that saw them take seven points from their opening three games in March. That included a 0-0 draw at struggling Notts County, before a 2-1 win against promotion-chasers Mansfield Town and a 3-0 trouncing of Yeovil Town.

The Vale then hit a slight blip with a 0-0 draw away to Swindon Town, but by then they had extended the gap to eight points between themselves and Macclesfield in the relegation zone. They were then undone by a second half double to lose 2-0 at home to Forest Green Rovers.

In recent weeks though, the Vale have returned to winning ways edging out Northampton Town 2-1 and Crewe Alexandra 1-0 respectively.

2017/18 season in review

  • Position: League Two - 20th
  • Top goalscorer: Tom Pope - 19
  • Average attendance: 4,583

A 3-1 victory on the opening day of the season at Crawley Town was swiftly followed up by six successive defeats, as Port Vale found themselves bottom of the league.
Back-to-back draws with Forest Green and Yeovil offered little respite though, as the Vale went on to lose their next three games and extend their winless run to 11 games. By the end of that run, Port Vale had somehow propped up one place and were surprisingly just one point from safety.

Neil Aspin took over the permanent manager’s job from Michael Brown at the beginning of October and instantly instigated a mini-revival. Three wins, including a 1-0 win against the Grecians followed, as Vale rose to 21st.

From thereon, the Vale failed to slip into the relegation zone again. An almost perfect December resulted in four wins and a draw as Aspin’s side went 16th ahead of the new year. Port Vale also topped their EFL Trophy group, but narrowly bowed out to Shrewsbury in the second round.

The new year didn’t live up to December’s standards though, as the Vale embarked upon a remarkable run of 14 games without a win. Over half of those ended in draws, just to emphasise the fine margins involved, but by the end of March, the club had fallen to 21st.

With two wins, two draws and three defeats from their final seven games, it is safe to say Port Vale’s season petered out, despite fulfilling their remit of staying up.

Most recent meetings

Port Vale 1-1 Exeter City (Sky Bet League Two – September 29, 2018)

Idris Kane scored a 97th minute equaliser for the hosts, to serve a devastating blow to the Grecians, as the visitors suffered a blow in their title-charge by dropping to third place.

Nicky Law broke the deadlock shortly after the interval, but the two teams had to share the spoils at the full-time whistle. Port Vale dropped to 16th position.

Port Vale 0-1 Exeter City (Sky Bet League Two – March 20, 2018)

Jordan Storey scored the only goal of the game in this midweek encounter, which boosted the Grecians promotions prospects as they went sixth ahead of Coventry City.

For Port Vale, they still had to look over their shoulder with eight games left to play. The Vale slipped to 20th, with seven points separating themselves and Chesterfield Town in the drop zone.

Exeter City 0-1 Port Vale (Sky Bet League Two – October 21, 2017)

Port Vale won the last encounter at St James Park, as leading striker Tom Pope scored the only goal of the game in the 25th minute.

The win continued the Vale’s improbable ascent as they made it three consecutive victories. For the Grecians, their promotion efforts suffered a blow as they slipped out of the automatic spots into fourth-place.

Ticket news

Tickets are on sale at advance prices until 5pm in person and midnight online, on Friday, April 12.

You can book online via Mobile, tablet or desktop by visiting: tickets.ecfc.co.uk or by calling: 01392 411 243 or by visiting the club shop/reception at St James Park.


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