Vital reader Burslem Boy takes a look back at Vale’s defeat to Wolves…
Few activities in life are as soul-destroying as watching my club play away from home. This has nothing to do with winning or losing. I got so fed up a few years ago at being treated as a semi-criminal by bullying jobsworths who were a disgrace to their uniforms before being graciously allowed into a slum ground where I was paying top dollar for a tenth rate service that I gave up going to away games completely. On Saturday afternoon I remembered why I felt this way. There has been some ‘debate` about bringing back ‘safe standing` to football grounds. Wolverhampton Wanderers can`t even manage safe seating. The seats in the lower tier of the Steve Bull Stand have leg room that would constrict a Hobbit. The sharp edges of the seat in front stick into your knees. Four rows back you can`t even see the whole of the pitch. Seating away fans with home fans in the tier above is an invitation for cowards to behave badly and some did. This was a red rag to a bull to Vale`s hooligan element, an alarming number of whom are old enough to know better. Some Vale fans don`t know how to behave in defeat; some Wolves fans don`t how to behave in victory. It was a completely dispiriting afternoon. I shall not be visiting the Molineux again.
On the pitch it was not quite the shambles we saw against Swindon Town and Crewe Alexandra, but it was still pretty much Groundhog Day. Pope strove valiantly, but got no support from the wide players or from the midfield and, as at Vale Park, he was constantly fouled by the egregious Stearman. Tom did not help his case by missing an absolute sitter in the first half. This was the only real chance we created and that came from a Wolves mistake seized on by Knott, who was excellent in the first half, but faded in the second. It is difficult to criticise Loft. He always gives 100 per cent effort, but he has no tactical sense and spends too much time chasing the ball, which leaves acres of space for the opposition to exploit. Every time we gave the ball away in the final third, with Dodds and Lines the chief culprits, the opposition ran straight through us. With better finishing Wolves would have put the game to bed by half time. We could not cope with the muscular Sako, who really needs to look in the mirror and ask himself why he is even playing in League 1. The second and third Wolves goals came about as a result of Vale defenders being unable to cope with the physical presence of their opponents.
Fifty-one points stayed up in League 1 last season. Vale currently have 43. Three more wins ought to ensure safety. But we are definitely in a slump. Including the Brighton game, we have conceded three goals on five occasions in the last eight games. And in most of these games Neal was our best player, as he was yesterday. The manager seems at a loss how to put this right.