Vital reader Burslem Boy takes a look back at the game that sealed promotion for the Valiants…
It seems pointless trying to write a conventional report on yesterday`s game. All that mattered was the outcome and the outcome was satisfactory. During the raucous post-match celebrations in The Bulls Head I found myself reflecting on the news of Stockport County`s relegation from the Conference. There but for the grace of God ? The differing fates of these two old foes are probably the true measure of Vale`s achievement this season.
Taken from its context the game was dire. I have spent too many years investing too much emotional energy in the Vale not to have been worried last week, but I never worry once I step into the ground and catch the first whiff of battle. When I saw Northampton`s team I almost relaxed. I couldn`t see any goals in it. A workmanlike, pedestrian five-man midfield, no pace, no creativity, no threat other than from set pieces. My only real concern was whether the benches provided for the opposition substitutes were strong enough to accommodate Mr Akinfenwa. After all the land on which Vale Park is built is riddled with old mine workings and we wouldn`t want anything awful to happen to a man who gives such hope to the obese.
At the worst I feared a nil nil, but was confident we would win if we scored. So what do we do but give Northampton a goal start after two minutes. My sister, who was watching her first game for many years, simply said ‘oh dear`. ‘Britain`s Brainiest Footballer` Clark Carlisle scored. Frankly, I was amazed he did not get Man of the Match. He scored. He captained Northampton and organized their back four. And he refereed the game. My only criticism is that he failed to send himself off. With 88 minutes left, plus stoppage time, Vale went into panic mode and started chasing the game. We should have gone two-nil down when Northampton hit the bar and failed to put in the rebound. The man behind me said ‘that`s a game changer`. It didn`t quite work out like that, but Vale took charge in the last thirty minutes of the first half, equalised and probably should have put the game to bed. The second half was something of a trial. Instead of pushing Northampton back we allowed them to push us back, sitting deeper and deeper. O`Donovan took his goal well, but Vale gave him every encouragement and all the space in the world in which to shoot. Mr O`Donovan is from Cork. As the Irish say, ‘you can`t trust a Corkie`; on this occasion you couldn`t even trust him to miss. But cometh the hour, cometh Lee Collins. It is well known that Collins did not want to leave the Vale and only did so because he thought it would help the club during the darkest days of administration. ‘Do you think he meant it?` asked my cousin. ‘He couldn`t score that goal again if he was given the whole of eternity to do it,` I replied. Perhaps God really is a Vale fan.
Despite an heroic effort by Cobblers goalie Lee Nicholls to win Time Waster of the Year, I fear that I must hand this prestigious award to Morecambe`s Barry Roche. I shall not miss him next season.
And finally, Mr Adrian Bothroyd. It is impossible not to like Mr Bothroyd. He is extremely personable. I have no doubt that he is a pillar of domestic rectitude, lauded in his local community for his kindness to old ladies and small, furry animals. He has an eye for a sharp suit. He is a perceptive and fair-minded analyst and a good tactician. He has more coaching badges than Wallace Arnold. But looks can be deceptive. This man is a footballing anti-christ. His horrible team is up there with Neil Warnock`s Bury and Graham Westley`s Stevenage. I understand that one of our local teams, I forget the name, may be looking for a new manager. Mr Bothroyd would be a perfect fit.