In spite of the non-stop drama of recent weeks, Vale welcome neighbours Macclesfield Town for their first game of a crucial month. Vale travel to promotion rivals Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday and will first need to secure maximum points against a Macclesfield side that are unbeaten in their last three visits to Vale Park.
The visitors are currently languishing in 21st place in League Two, although last week`s home loss to high flying Wycombe Wanderers was their first defeat in four matches. The game was marred by a mass brawl, which saw Town strikers Emile Sinclair and Ricky Sappleton sent off late on. The two sides this week accepted an FA charge relating to the incident.
It has been another difficult season for Macclesfield following the death of midfielder Richard Butcher, who was only 29 years old, this coming not long after the tragic loss of boss Keith Alexander last season.
Vale`s record against the so called lesser sides this season has been disappointing, with inept recent home displays against Cheltenham Town, Barnet, Northampton Town and Stevenage. Jim Gannon knows he needs a positive result after coming under the media spotlight following his bust up with assistant Geoff Horsfield on the coach to Aldershot last week. Horsfield has remained away from the club this week as the Vale board begin an investigation into the incident.
Recent talk of the departure of fans` favourite Gary Roberts has fanned the flames even more, although the club were quick to issue a statement denying the story that broke on BBC Radio Stoke on Thursday afternoon.
Jim Gannon told BBC Radio Stoke: ‘We’re professionals, we’ve got a job to do and we try to get on with it, no matter what the circumstances.
‘Your strength of character and your professionalism gets you through it and the players showed exactly the same.
‘[Macclesfield] have had a very strange game last Saturday, having a couple of players sent off, but they’re a hard-working side and we expect a tough game.’
Macclesfield boss Gary Simpson spoke about the loss of former manager Keith Alexander who passed away almost a year to the day.
‘It’s really hard to believe it has been a year since Keith passed away’
‘I still keep expecting him to walk into the dressing room. But whilst he has gone, he’ll forever be in my thoughts and I know many others.’
‘Keith was a fighter and had great self belief. And I know he will have been proud of the way we have coped since he left us and also more recently when Butch passed away. It`s been an incredibly tough year, one that would have hit any club, irrespective of their size.’
Port Vale Team News:
Gannon may name the same side that beat Aldershot last week, providing Stuart Tomlinson recovers from his hip injury. Gary Roberts remains suspended, whilst Gareth Owen is still out with his ankle injury.
Possible Team: Tomlinson, Yates, McCombe, Collins, K Taylor, Geohaghon, Loft, Morsy, Haldane, Pope, M Richards.
Player to watch: Marc Richards
Richards netted his first league goal from open play since last September during the win at Aldershot. After recovering from his lengthy injury, much rests on the shoulders of Vale`s leading marksman. Richards scored twice in Vale`s win at Moss Rose earlier this season.
Macclesfield Town Team News:
The Silkmen are short of attacking options as strikers Emile Sinclair and Ricky Sappleton are suspended. Lewis Chalmers is also expected to miss out through injury.
Possible Team: Veiga, Brown, Morgan, Diagne, Reid, Bencherif, Bolland, Hamshaw, Gray, Barnett, Daniel.
Player to watch: Hamza Bencherif
The former Algerian under-20 International will pose a goal scoring threat from midfield. Bencherif has scored seven times already this season. The highly rated former Nottingham Forest midfielder missed a large chunk of last season after sustaining a broken ankle, but is back to his best this term.
Match Facts & Stats
Macclesfield 0 Vale 3 (M Richards 30, 87, Rigg 71)
Vale secured their fourth consecutive away win in front of a bumper away following. Marc Richards netted twice, and Sean Rigg`s neat finish secured the points for the Valiants.
Last five games:
Aldershot 1-2 Vale
Vale 1-3 Stevenage
Vale 2-1 Bradford City
Vale 1-1 Northampton Town
Wycombe Wanderers 1-1 Vale
Macclesfield 0-1 Wycombe
Macclesfield 2-0 Morecambe
Stockport 1-4 Macclesfield
Aldershot 1-1 Macclesfield
Macclesfield 2-4 Bury
M Bristow and C J Knowles
Fourth Official S J Copeland
Despite the continuing off the field drama, Vale run out 2-0 winners.
Shrewsbury Town (a) 08/03/2011