Burslem Boy takes a look back at Vale’s comprehensive victory over Plymouth…
There is, alas, only one way to describe Saturday`s performance: it was a game of two halves. In the first half Vale were pretty unimpressive and in the second half they were pretty good. Manager Micky Adams made six changes to the starting eleven who performed so lamentably against Fleetwood Town. McCombe and Morsy were injured. Andrew, Burge (surprisingly), Dodds and Duffy were dropped to the bench. Yates moved to right back, Taylor came in at left-back. Loft and Shuker came into central midfield, Davis joined Chilvers in central defence and Williamson moved in alongside Pope up front.
Plymouth were third bottom. They had sacked their manager after the New Year`s Day defeat at Bristol Rovers, who are the worst team I have seen this season. This rather suggested that Argyle are not very good, but you would not have known this from the start they made. They did not seem at all intimidated, they were not set up defensively and were clearly going to give it a go. They certainly gave as good as they got in the first 30 minutes of fairly inconsequential action. Mr Adams` changes did not seem to have much effect. Chilvers and Davis struggled with Chadwick, Shuker continued his impression of a dog chasing a ball and never quite catching up with it and Vincent was again completely ineffective. But things changed dramatically on the half hour. Myrie-Williams had been the difference between the two sides. He is a frustrating player, whose decision-making is not up to the same level as his skill, but Argyle were never able to cope with him and he always looked a threat. On 30 minutes he cut in from the right once more, re-adjusted his sights and fired across Gilmartin into the net. Two minutes later Nick Chadwick decided to mark his return to the Potteries by getting himself sent off. Perhaps he wanted some time to visit relatives in the Park Estate. That ought to have been that, but given Vale`s inability to keep clean sheets there was still room for concern, which was entirely removed with Vale`s second goal.
Vale were immediately better on the resumption. Shuker and Loft got a grip on the midfield. The passing was crisper, play switched from side to side and Argyle began to look decidedly stressed. Davis showed an ability to bring the ball out of defence and pick a pass. When Taylor, who had one of his best games, found Pope with an excellent cross that he headed firmly past Gilmartin on 54 minutes, it became a matter of how many. It would have been a lot more but for the excellence of Gilmartin, who made a series of brilliant saves to deny Pope and Williamson, who began to look like an effective combination, culminating in an impressive exchange of passes that led to Vale`s fourth goal.
We know we have the firepower to beat weak teams (and even strong ones), but doubts about the centre of the midfield and defence, about left back and about Vincent`s dramatic loss of form remain. There will be tougher challenges than this one. Whether the transfer window results in a significant strengthening remains to be seen.