Vale begin their crucial Easter fixtures when they entertain promotion rivals Cheltenham Town at Vale Park tomorrow. With several of the top seven not in action until Saturday, the Valiants have an ideal opportunity to strengthen their grip on the automatic places and put some daylight between themselves and the Robins.
The visitors are only one point behind Vale, although have played a game more. Mark Yates` side have proved something of a bogey side for Vale over recent seasons. Indeed, Vale have failed to secure a win over Cheltenham since being relegated to League Two. Micky Adams will have been buoyed after his side ended their poor run of form when beating lowly York City last time out. A postponed game against Aldershot Town denied them the chance to carry on winning ways, though they should be fully rested and fired up for this encounter.
After narrowly missing out on promotion last season, losing to Crewe Alexandra in the play off final, Yates has continued to work wonders, guiding Cheltenham once more into the promotion picture and proving a shrewd operator in the transfer market. Vale, meanwhile, will be hoping to get off to a positive start for what will be a huge run of games over the next couple of weeks against several of their promotion rivals.
Vale Assistant Manager Mark Grew told the Vale Official Site that he was relishing the visit of Cheltenham. “The three big games we have got coming up are going to have a big say at the end of the season, so we have just got to do what we can do and Friday is going to be a big indication of what`s going to happen.
“It is important they get something as well, so I don`t think Mark Yates will change his formation, I think he is going to come here and be positive, like he always is.
“We always have good games against Cheltenham, they are well organised and disciplined and good off set-pieces, so we know we have got a battle on.
Cheltenham boss Mark Yates: “They’ve predominantly played 4-4-2 this season by the looks of it with two strikers up top who have been scoring goals so it works for them. They’ll have a game plan and we’ll do what we do best. We’ll play our game on a slightly bigger pitch but it’s only a couple of yards bigger than normal.
“We’ve all got to hold our nerve now with our final six games to go and see where it takes us. We’ve just got to take one game at a time. Our thoughts and focus right now are purely on Port Vale. I’ll pick a team on Friday to win the game and deal with Monday afterwards.
Port Vale Team News:
Ryan Burge will once more be missing from the Vale squad. Although the midfielder has completed his 14 day suspension following his fall out with Micky Adams, he appears no closer to featuring for the club. Captain Doug Loft returns from his three match ban, while Chris Birchall is available after featuring for Trinidad and Tobago during the International week and may fight it out with Louis Dodds for the remaining midfield spot.
Possible Team: Neal, Duffy, Chilvers, McCombe, Jones, Dodds, Griffith, Loft, Myrie-Williams, Pope, Hughes.
Player to watch: Tom Pope
The Vale striker celebrated being named the League Two player of the year last Sunday and will be hoping he can mark that by rediscovering the midas touch that saw him race to 27 goals this season. Breaking his eleven game non-scoring run couldn`t possibly come at a better time.
Cheltenham Town Team News:
Cheltenham have extended the loan of Michael Hector from Reading and have also captured defender Jack Deaman from Birmingham City until the end of the season. Russell Penn and Kaif Mohamed are both carrying knocks but are expected to be fit.
Possible Team: Brown, Jombati, Elliott, Hector, Pack, Deering, McGlashan, Penn, Benson, Mohamed.
Player to watch: Marlon Pack
Although the experienced Paul Benson will prove a handful, much of Cheltenham`s attacking impetus comes from the talented midfielder Marlon Pack. Despite seeing a move to Swindon Town fall through recently. Pack has returned to the Cheltenham side and has continued to be a central figure in their success. With Vale often struggling this season against sides that flood the midfield, denying the former Portsmouth man time and space on the ball will prove to be a key factor.
Match Facts & Stats
Cheltenham 1 (Carter 61) Vale 1 (Dodds 67)
Louis Dodds` close range equaliser rescued a point for Vale, who were thankful for Chris Shuker`s goal line clearance in stoppage time.
York City 0 Vale 2
Bristol Rovers 2 Vale 0
Vale 1 Southend United 2
Vale 0 Bradford City 0
Oxford United 2 Vale 1
Barnet 0 Cheltenham 0
Cheltenham 3 Rotherham United 0
Burton Albion 3 Cheltenham 1
Cheltenham 1-0 Chesterfield
Cheltenham 2-1 AFC Wimbledon
Keith Lawson and Steven Meredith
Fourth Official Ryan Johnson
Tom Pope returns to goal scoring ways as Vale settle for a 1-1 draw.
Chesterfield (a) Mon 1st April 15.00