Town: Joe Anyon, Ryan Woods, Connor Goldson, Tamika Mkandawire (c), Paul Parry, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (Taylor, 66), Miles Storey (Eaves, 66), Asa Hall, Fraser Fyvie (McAllister, 56), Joseph Mills, Jermaine Grandison
Subs not used: Chris Weale, Dave Winfield, Tom Bradshaw
Port Vale: Chris Neal, Adam Yates, Daniel Jones, Carl Dickinson, Doug Loft (c), Tom Pope (Tomlin, 14), Joe Davis, Chris Lines, Jack Grimmer, Anthony Griffith (Myrie-Williams, 60), Jordan Hugill (Williamson, 69)
Subs not used: Sam Johnson, Lewis Dodds, Chris Birchall, Billy Knott
Referee: James Adcock
Assistants: Mark Duncan & Steve Plane
Fourth Official: Robert Ellis
Attendance: 5,992 (1,299 from Burslem)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Caretaker boss Mike Jackson rang the changes with one or two surprises in his starting XI for this clash with Port Vale. The biggest saw Joe Anyon between the posts making his first start in the league for Chris Weale, who was relegated to the bench. Dave McAllister, Jon Taylor and Tom Eaves joined him with Jermaine Grandison, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, new boy Miles Storey and Asa Hall the other changes to the side which lost at Sheffield United last week. Joe Jacobson was absent with a back problem and Jackson could only name six subs due to injuries.
Both sides got a few quality crosses in during a cat and mouse first ten minutes, and praise must go to the Greenhous Meadow groundstaff who had worked so hard during the week to provide a first class playing surface.
Vale were forced into a change on 14 minutes with influential striker and top scorer Tom Pope, having to be replaced by Gavin Tomlin. He’d clearly picked up a knock and it was an obvious blow to Micky Adams’ side.
Town were ahead on the corner count with three in the first quarter hour and although the delivery was good on each occasion, Chris Neal did well to claim the ball under pressure.
Storey headed over from Ryan Woods’ right wing cross with the youngster once again showing up well in what looked like a central three at the back - with Woods and Joseph Mills pushing on when the side had possession, and dropping in to make it a back five when the ball was lost.
There was very little between the sides with Vale winless on the road since November, and Salop also without a home win during the same period. The game was in dire need of a goal – however cagey the affair - with single points not really the order of the day for Salop.
On another miserable day weather wise, the attendance was given at a touch below 6,000 with a healthy away following of 1,300.
Town had a rare sight of goal when Mills rifled a shot wide from distance after a poor clearance befitting the name of Vale’s Jack Grimmer. With the half drawing to a close though, neither team had done enough to work the opposition goalkeeper with goals still very much in short supply here from a Shrewsbury perspective. Storey did show some promise with a sprint down the left but he was easily caught up by a Vale defender and committed a foul to concede possession, level with Block 18.
Half Time: Town 0 Port Vale 0
McAllister replaced Fraser Fyvie 11 minutes into a second half that had seen the visitors do most of the pressing, as the dark skies continued to descend on SY2 - with the distant hills barely visible through the gloom.
Town weren’t carrying any goal threat with an hour played and former keeper Neal could have had few, if any, quieter afternoons to this point. Not that Anyon at the opposite end was overworked – far from it, he could have been sat reading the back pages for all his involvement in the game. It was a drab affair and Adams through on Jennison Myrie Williams who scored a screamer in the reverse fixture at Vale Park in an attempt to liven things up.
Town won three corners in quick succession and from the last of them Connor Goldson headed fractionally over. You sensed that if the home side were to make a breakthrough, it might come from a training ground routine as there was little developing from open play.
Taylor and Eaves entered the fray together with Mendez-Laing and Storey the men called to the sidelines. They had just under 25 minutes to make any impact on a game lacking any quality. As if to emphasise the point, Paul Parry pulled a back-post volley hopelessly wide when he would normally have expected to dirty Neal’s gloves at least.
With 12 minutes left Neal would put his gloves to the ball but only to routinely hold a 25 yard drive from Woods – who was still looking the most likely player to create anything going forward for Jackson’s men. Town were still racking up their corner count with Eaves the latest to let a half chance pass him by with a poor header that went miles wide. It looked nailed on 0-0 with the game inside the last 10 minutes and chances coming along about as regularly as Christmas puds.
With four minutes left Vale should have gone ahead from a Chris Lines corner.
How substitute Ben Williamson failed to head home unchallenged from inside the 6 yard box is beyond me. I was right behind it from my North Stand vantage point and Anyon should have been fishing the winning goal from the back of his net. The away fans were far from impressed but it cheered me up a bit.
Woods (who else?) saw a low shot kept out by Neal – again food and drink stuff – and you began to wonder if you were about to witness a miracle.
And then the reality: Three minutes of nothingness from the added on time to end the dullest of encounters. On the plus side, a clean sheet is always a decent base on which to build. It was a first in eight here. Town are going to need a few more.
Full Time: Town 0 Port Vale 0