ewport County could only follow their FA Cup heroics from the weekend with a disappointing goalless draw against Port Vale who, ten minutes from time, were reduced to ten men.
Vale top scorer Tom Pope missed the game through injury, as did Ben Whitfield; Ricky Miller joined them on the sidelines through serving a suspension. Welsh Under-21 International Mark Harris lined up for the Valiants, just weeks after his loan spell at Rodney Parade ended. Fellow County loanee Antoine Semenyo also missed out for County after his recall from Bristol City on Sunday.
A quiet opening saw very little in the way of goalmouth action; merely half chances adorning each end in the first 15 minutes. Nick Townsend once again deputised for Joe Day while he remains on call for baby duty and it was his long free kick which found Padraig Amond on the volley who pulled a tremendous save out of Scott Brown – the looping effort superbly controlled and would have been a contender for County goal of the season. At the other end, good work down the left from Mitchell Clark saw the ball eventually played out to an unmarked James Gibbons but his left-footed effort was tame and straight at Townsend.
On the half-hour mark, as Vale began to get their foot on the ball more, the away side did well again to get the ball centered and it was Luke Hannant who got on the end of it well but his angled header was well smothered by Townsend. Ten minutes later, the big man had to be alert again as Manny Oyeleke was allowed to wriggle free of a multitude of challenges before firing low towards the corner. While Vale weren’t brilliant, they did cause problems for County in phases and the home side would have to improve in the second half.
County were half a yard short in the first half and it was this that nearly resulted in the opening goal for Port Vale just minutes into the second. Half time substitute Danny Elliott was given enough time and space to play a decent one-two inside the box but his first time effort was just over crossbar. A warning shot for County in the wake of such poor defending.
On the hour, Bristol City loanee Tyreeq Bakinson – the one that stayed – did well to breeze inside Mitchell Clark wide on the right and into the area; the leggy midfielder opted to shoot from a tight angle rather than squaring for a colleague and in doing so, fired over the top. This was once of County’s most promising moves so the miss will be highlighted as poor, especially considering he had numerous other options.
County were handed a golden opportunity to take the victory when Port Vale Full-back James Gibbons was sent off for a reckless challenge on Dan Butler. It looked 50-50 initially (admittedly from distance), but the officials conferred over the decision and saw fit to give Gibbons his marching orders.
It was County providing all the huff and puff from that point but ultimately, they were just a fraction too leggy to scrape the win; there was a distinct lack of quality up front which ostensibly did for any chance of grabbing the win. Port Vale were happy to play on the counter and will equally be happy of the point given the circumstances; Mark Harris did extremely well up top by himself but Scot Bennett and the County backline marshalled the visitors out of the game with relative ease.
So a disappointing draw once again but equally, another game unbeaten and successive league clean sheets heading into what will no doubt be a tricky game at Grimsby. Hopefully the players will get some rest in their legs before then as that was essentially the issue; fresh legs would have won this game but that’s the by-product of the cup run County are on. Lest we forget, a small squad playing matches as frequently as they are against quality sides from the top two tiers of English football is going to take it’s toll.
Man of the Match: Scot Bennett
Player Ratings: Townsend 8, Butler 6, Labadie 6 (Marsh-Brown 7), Willmott 5 (Dolan 6), Amond 6, Matt 6, Bakinson 6 (Sheehan 5), Bennett 8, O’Brien (C) 7, Poole 7, Demetriou 7
Attendance: 2,534 (63 away)