The portents for today were not good, after we received news of long delays on the M5 following an accident. We took a route through Merthyr, Abergavenny, Hereford, Leominster and Shrewsbury and hit road works what seemed like every 10 miles of the journey.
My driver for the day, Andrew Thomas, obviously wanted to spend as little time in the Stoke area as possible as he recounted stories of what a miserable, unfriendly place it was. He wasn’t far wrong.
If Stoke’s not a pleasant place to visit then Burslem, the home of Port Vale, would take the biscuit. It reminded me of the rougher parts of Luton. The shops were like something from the land that time forgot with a huge proportion of fast food shops. The was a little old fashioned DIY shop that had an array of paints and brushes in the window but included in the merchandise on display was a bottle of lemonade and a bottle of Comfort fabric conditioner!
Still despite the poor retail outlets available for the residents of Burslem I guess they are amongst the fittest people in the UK judging by the number of ‘Health Studios’ we passed.
We finally arrived at the ground having toured the whole, or should that be ‘hole’, of Burslem and received directions from characters that would not have been out of place in ‘The League of Gentlemen’.
Kenny Jackett had made just one change to the starting line up from the Football Trophy final with Leon Knight replacing Andy Robinson.
Side- Gueret, Tate, Monk, Lowe, Ricketts, Britton, O’Leary, Jones, Knight, Trundle, Akinfenwa. Subs- Murphy, Martinez, Forbes, Robinson, Fallon.
The game started in near freezing temperatures and a light drizzle and the weather worsened throughout the first half until we had driving sleet.
Swans soon looked the better footballing side and Lee Trundle and Leon Knight seemed to be taking turns to go up front with Bayo with Trunds dropping back to wide right and Leon dropping to wide left in turn.
Trundle caused their right back all sorts of problems as he tormented him with his array of skills. Most often this ended with Trunds being brought down but the referee Mr Curson soon made it obvious he was going to do us very few favours.
Despite Swans looking much the better side, Vale looked dangerous on the break and Sam Ricketts was often left exposed to a tricky winger with Leon Knight nowhere to be seen.
Despite long periods of domination Swans efforts on goal were few and far between with a glancing header from Owain Jones being the closest to a goal.
With half time approaching Sam Ricketts was again left exposed and Chris Birchall took full advantage and sent over a perfect cross for Sam Togwell. Togwell was given the freedom of Burslem and had time to pick his spot with a header from 12 yards out. The spot he pocked was chest high in the middle of goal and it should have been an easy save for Willy. Unfortunately Willy had decided the ball was going to his right and was wrong footed and could do no more than watch the ball hit the net.
The experiment of 3 strikers was not working and Andy Robinson’s head down approach was called for. Kenny Jackett saw things differently replacing Kris O’Leary with Roberto Martinez at half time.
Without coming out with any more purpose, Swans equalised 90 seconds after the restart. Superb work from Lee Trundle, for once on the left, saw him beat his man and take the header out with a superb chip to the far post where Bayo Akinfenwa gratefully headed home with what looked like a deflection off a defender.
Against a very average Vale side this should have been the key for Swans to go on and win the game comfortably, but it was Port Vale that looked the livelier.
On 58 minutes Swans went 2-1 down. Slack marking allowed Vale to find Michael Cummins free just outside the box. He struck a right foot shot that should have been a regulation save for Willy but he only succeeded in pushing the ball into his own net. It was a real gift.
Kenny Jackett finally took off the ineffective Leon Knight and brought Andy Robinson on. Within 5 minutes the game seemed beyond Swansea as Vale grabbed their third.
Alan Tate, who was otherwise outstanding, was beaten all end up by Jeff Smith who sent over an excellent cross. I thought Willy should have come out the 10 yards or so to collect but in any event Garry Monk was close to Leon Constantine. Monk never left the ground and allowed Constantine a free header that he powered past a static Willy.
Some of the Swans travelling support were not helping their team with barracking of several players and Sam Ricketts in particular. Sam had not had a good game but he was often faced with 2 attackers bearing down on him with little of no support.
Swans now had more of the ball but Vale still looked dangerous and seemingly able to run through our midfield at will.
Rory Fallon replaced Leon Britton with 15 minutes to go and Swans were bordering on 4-2-4 with Robinson and Trundle both playing advanced roles. At last Swans started to create real chances and the Vale keeper was the busiest man on the pitch.
With 2 minutes to go Swans pulled it back to 3-2. Owain Jones put Lee Trundle through. Trundle fired a shot on goal that was deflected over the keeper and Rory Fallon reacted quickly to volley home from 6 yards.
It was the Alamo revisited from there with Lee Trundle orchestrating Swans attacks. With seconds of the 90 minutes left Trunds looked to have equalised when to lifted the ball over the keeper, but with the Swans support just starting to celebrate a defender popped up to make a goal line clearance.
Deep into injury time it was Trundle again who fired a shot that beat Goodlad in the Vale goal but it smashed against the bar and rebounded to safety.
Swans, despite playing the better football didn’t really deserve anything today. Kenny Jackett got his tactics wrong and too many players had off days.
Gueret 4- At fault for 2 of the goals and needless to say his distribution was hopeless.
Tate 8 – Excellent game. Never let his head drop and still pushing forward deep into injury time.
Monk 6- Did OK but went to sleep for the third goal.
Lowe 5- His poorest game for us.
Ricketts 5- Left exposed and not helped by some so called ‘supporters’ .
Britton 7- Good first half and just about pick of midfield.
Jones 6 – Good first half was overrun second half.
O’Leary 5 – Looked a bit jaded.
Trundle 8 – Played wide right most of the game but unlike Leon Knight didn’t sulk in playing unaccustomed role. Was a constant threat and set up both goals and desperately unlucky not to score himself.
Akinfenwa 6- Despite another goal didn’t have a very good game. Won few aerial challenges and let down by his touch too often.
Knight 4- Barely seemed interested and walked straight past KJ and down the tunnel on his substitution. Doesn’t seem a happy bunny at the moment.
Martinez 6- Did OK and improved the midfield.
Robinson 6 – No doubt he should have started.
Fallon 7 – Can’t stop scoring!
Have a read of another Port Vale v Swans match report by Peter and Bethan Charles.