Vital reader Burslem Boy takes a look back at Vale’s 4-1 win over Wycombe Wanderers…
Far be it from me (ahem) to disagree with Micky Adams, especially as he doesn`t seem to handle disagreement all that well, but I thought his post-match comments on Tom Pope`s first half performance were well out of order. Pope was the only Vale player who earned his money in the first half. If he didn`t get into the opposition box this was because Vale`s total inability to impose any control on the game meant that he was forever having to go searching for the ball himself. I also disagree that the sending off changed the game. (Of course, this gave Gareth Ainsworth the ‘manager`s excuse` – nothing to do with me, guv, all the ref`s fault.) Wycombe were set up to spoil (and were time wasting virtually from the kick off).
My feeling when Kuffour got sent off was that this was likely to make Wycombe even more difficult to break down. They were one-nil up after a pretty soft penalty. They had no need to score, merely to defend their lead, continue to frustrate a lacklustre Vale and hope to nick a second goal on the break. 4-4-1 is still a pretty solid formation, especially if you don`t have to do much more than get behind the ball. It was far from mission impossible. What really changed the game was Mr Adams`s decision at half time to move Louis Dodds into midfield and play Shuker behind Pope, then to bring Williamson on for the clearly not match fit Murphy and pull Shuker back into midfield. Dodds was invisible in the first half and excellent in the second. Williamson and Pope look an effective combination when Pope plays a little deeper and allows Williamson to use his pace on the shoulder of the last defender. This is what created the first goal, which Williamson despatched with precision and confidence. Pope is not just a big lump who scores headers, he`s a good footballer, who links play well and creates chances for other players.
If Micky Adams had a good second half, this could not be said for Gareth Ainsworth, who had a Dario Gradi moment by taking Grant off. Grant is always a thorn in Vale`s side and I am always pleased to see him depart.
Overall, this was typical of Vale`s season. When we`re good, we`re very, very good and almost appear to be able to score at will; when we`re bad we`re hopeless. We don`t look capable of just seeing games out. I thought we would win this game once we scored, but we never looked comfortable. Still, I should not complain, this Vale team is on a different level from that of recent seasons. Although it is frustrating to see opposition teams come to spoil, we should take this as a compliment. This is because we scare them. Long may it continue.