A look back at Vale’s impressive second half performance against the Gills…
This was a game of two-thirds and a third. And of two managers. For the first hour Vale produced an insipid performance, lacking in fluency, energy and guile. Gillingham`s goal, scored deep into first half injury time looked like being enough for them to take all three points.
But on 60 minutes Micky Adams made a Mourinho-like triple substitution that changed the game. Gareth Owen replaced McDonald at the back. Marshall and Shuker replaced Williamson and the disappointing Morsy. Vale went one up front, had an extra man in midfield and increasingly pushed both full backs on.
Shuker, in particular, brought movement and invention to the team, creating space on both flanks. Gillingham began for the first time in the game to show signs of stress at the back and their goalie was very lucky to get away with some eccentric keeping. But the goal would not come, not least because Essam kept blocking all Vale`s best efforts. It was down to the increasingly influential Loft to engineer the break though. He got round the back of the Gills` defence on 81 minutes and produced a pinpoint cross that not even Rigg could contrive to miss.
Confronted with this change in the balance of play Mr Hessenthaler was found wanting. He brought on a full back and took off a striker, while the Vale went for the win, even though this meant living a little dangerously at the back. He who dared won. Gillingham gave away a definite if daft penalty in the last minute of normal time that Richards despatched with aplomb. So, despite, being rubbish for much of the season we are only two points off the play-offs, though none of the teams above us show signs of crumbling. Funny old game.