Vale struggling for goals


Goals are a serious problem for League Two relegation strugglers Port Vale, who have scored just once in their last seven league games, with John Askey being in charge for five of those encounters.


Misfortune has played a part in that run.


In the 1-0 home defeat to Morecambe, they produced a reasonably good performance but were denied by a wonder-show from the opposing goalkeeper.


Then, in the 1-0 loss at Cambridge in Askey’s first game in charge, plus the 0-0 draw at Notts County last time out, they had perhaps the better of the play.


And yet, in those two games, arguably the third- and second-best performances respectively under Askey, they hit the target a combined seven times.


Plus, there were major question marks about their use of the ball in the 2-1 home defeat to Tranmere, when they only showed urgency after going two goals down, and the 1-0 loss at Cheltenham, where they showed very little urgency all game.


Clearly something is not quite right about what they are doing in the final third – and yet, on paper, one would suggest they have a more technically capable squad than most of their competitors.


James Gibbons was Young Player of the Year last term, Adam Crookes is an adaptable, ball-playing defender, midfielder Manny Oyeleke was by far Aldershot’s star performer last season, Tom Conlon is a dynamic talent, wide men David Worrall and Cristian Montano have won promotion from this level with Southend and Bristol Rovers respectively while Ben Whitfield can pick up excellent positions between the lines.


Part of the problem is the overreliance on target man Tom Pope; because he is as strong as he is in the air, Vale go long to him a lot of the time and it feels like almost all their attacks depend on whether he can hold the ball up for others.


Perhaps, if they trusted themselves to play on the deck a bit more, they might pose more of a threat.


Clinical Stags


Mansfield Town’s 4-2 win over Cheltenham last week highlights their new-found ruthlessness.


In the first half of the season, they controlled a lot of games without necessarily being able to convert those good performances, from draws into victories.


There are suggestions that they were not quite at their absolute best against the Robins, but they still scored four times and created enough chances to add to that tally, which shows that they exploited opposition mistakes very well in transition.


The one dilemma for David Flitcroft is the right wing-back position.


CJ Hamilton is arguably better there than utility man Will Atkinson and Fleetwood loanee Gethin Jones, but his performance after moving up top against Cheltenham suggests the Stags get the most out of him in an advanced role.



However, Flitcroft boasts arguably the strongest midfield in the division.


Experienced ball-winner Neal Bishop is remarkably fit for a 37-year-old and breaks up attacks superbly next to Willem Tomlinson, who has dominated central areas since joining on loan from Blackburn; Tomlinson’s arrival has allowed technician Jacob Mellis to influence games further up.


Although the absence of the suspended Tyler Walker is not ideal, Mansfield are hardly short on forward options with Nicky Ajose linking up well with Hamilton last time out; technician Jorge Grant can change games when he comes in from the left onto his right foot, too.


Tip: Mansfield to win to nil –

Read Gabriel’s Championship preview here.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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