Vale enter a crucial period of the season as they travel to Shrewsbury Town in what is the first in a number of key games against promotion rivals this month. The game is sure to be a fiery encounter and the home side will be hungry for revenge after the Valiants have taken maximum points on their only two visits to the Greenhous Meadow.
The Shrews have been on a fine run of form since the turn of the year, culminating in Graham Turner receiving the manager of the month award for February. A late winner at Northampton on Saturday ensured that his side stayed a point in front of the Valiants, although Vale have played one game fewer.
Turner added to his squad during the January transfer window with the arrival of influential Torquay United midfielder Nicky Wroe in a deal worth £45,000. The Shrews also swooped to sign Aston Villa striker James Collins, who had previously been on loan at Burton Albion this season, while also completing a permanent deal for on loan midfielder Mark Wright from Bristol Rovers.
Vale have won their last two matches in spite of the recent turmoil involving boss Jim Gannon and the continued hostility towards the board, with Mo Chaudry`s takeover bid very much in the front of supporters` minds.
Vale boss Jim Gannon told the Official Site that his side was in buoyant mood ahead of the big game. ‘From our point of view, we are delighted with our last seven games. We picked up fourteen points and that two points per game ratio is going to be very important and we are looking forward to doing that in our next two games.’
‘Shrewsbury have bounced back. I was at the Bury game and it was a disappointing defeat, especially the nature of it, losing 3-0 at home.
‘They came away from Northampton with a valuable three points and that has restored their confidence.
Shrewsbury Town Team News:
Lionel Ainsworth will be hoping to return to the side after coming on as a second half substitute during the win at Northampton, but the Shrews will have to wait on the fitness of striker Matt Harrold who is suffering with illness. Sean McAllister remains sidelined with his hernia complaint.
Possible Team: Smith, Sadler, Sharps, Cansdell-Sherriff, Grandison, Wright, Wroe, Taylor, Harrold, Collins, Davies.
Player to watch: Jon Taylor
The Liverpool born winger is sure to pose a big threat to the Vale defence. The 18 year old has netted five times in only seven appearances since breaking into the first team and has played a key role in the Shrews fine recent form.
Port Vale Team News:
Vale welcome back Gary Roberts after his three match ban, but the midfielder is likely to start on the substitute`s bench. Louis Dodds will be hoping his goal on Saturday will have done enough to earn a recall in place of Doug Loft. Gareth Owen is not yet ready to return following his ankle injury.
Possible Team: Martin, Yates, McCombe, K Taylor, Geohaghon, Morsy, Loft, Pope, M Richards, Haldane
Player to watch: Sam Morsy
The young midfielder has caught the eye over recent weeks, and the Vale boss will be hoping Morsy can add to his growing reputation with a match winning display.
Match Facts & Stats
A fine Gary Roberts strike saw Vale go four points clear at the top of League Two in front of over 8,500 fans. A keenly fought contest was decided when Roberts drove home from the edge of the box.
Shrewsbury 0 Vale 1 (McCombe 45)
John McCombe`s header on the stroke of half time gave Vale a deserved victory over 10 man Shrewsbury. Graham Coughlan was dismissed ten minutes into the second half after two bookable offences.
Last five games:
Northampton 2-3 Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury 0-3 Bury
Shrewsbury 0-0 Gillingham
Shrewsbury 1-0 Stevenage
Lincoln 1-5 Shrewsbury
Vale 2-1 Macclesfield Town
Aldershot 1-2 Vale
Vale 1-3 Stevenage
Vale 2-1 Bradford City
Vale 1-1 Northampton Town
P N GIBBS
R Ellis and A D Hutchinson
Fourth Official J Hull
Tom Pope`s strike earns Vale a crucial point in the chase for promotion.
Oxford United (h) 12/03/2011 15.00