Rovers Robbed At Vale Park
December 3, 2005
A wet and windy night at Burslem proved to be a real winter warmer for over 500 travelling Gasheads last night.
After drawing Port Vale in the 2nd round of the FA Cup, many Gasheads were disappointed at yet another away fixture having had to travel all the way to Grimsby in the 1st round. With Rovers recent form being very unpredictable and Vale’s form very similar it was a tough match to call. What made it harder was Port Vale’s demolition of league 1 high fliers Southend last Saturday.
Many took the day off for an inconvenient Friday night tie and the predictable problems the M5 and M6 were likely to bring. It turned out to be good foresight with long queues caused by both roadworks and accidents meaning a lengthy journey north to the Potteries.
Arriving there early, it was a chance to have a look around the club shop which was situated in their new partially completed stand. It was a good size and light and airy, giving some good pointers for how we would like the new Supporters Club shop to look in the future. As the turnstiles were not yet open, we were escorted by a steward through the players tunnel over to the away stand. Vale Park was not the worst stadium I have ever been to by some margin, though they struggle with attendances and face similar problems to us with their rivals Stoke City seemingly getting more co-operation from the local council.
Radio Bristol’s John Bennett saw me having a pre match snack and drink and approached me for an interview and a prediction. “It’s tricky out there tonight with heavy slippery conditions” I said. “I would like to see us make full use of both wings and stretch their defence” I suggested. I predicted a score of 1-1, maybe more optimistic than realistic given their result the previous Saturday.
The teams came out to a miserable night and Rovers seemed to start the brighter causing the home side problems early on. It got better as we saw less and less of the ball down our end which Scott Shearer was attending in the first half.
As the first half progressed, we seemed to create chance after chance and to my delight we were ripping them apart making good use of both flanks. Chris Carruthers was getting plenty of space down the left as wing back and getting good crosses in too, but with the conditions and a packed Port Vale defence, the ball just wouldn’t go into their net.
Rovers dominated the first half with good passing football though nearly came undone when Husbands had a chance for the home side shortly before the break, which luckily for the travelling faithful he could only blast way over the bar.
After going at the break at level pegging, Rovers carried on as they left off, giving Vale little in the way of space and pressing the ball all the time. James Hunt did well breaking up the play in the middle and the defence looked very solid with them looking like they all knew their responsibilities and backing each other up all the time.
Ten minutes into the second half and Rovers took the lead. A ball into the box came to Walker who headed what looked like a certain goal only to be saved by the Vale keeper. The rebound fell to Disley which brought another spectacular save from the Vale ‘keeper, then with the home defence unable to clear their lines a shot from Ali Gibb was adjudged to have gone over the line by the referees assistant to put Rovers a goal up and send the travelling fans delirious.
Whilst Rovers continued to play good football and dominated most of the second half the second goal which seemed inevitable juct wouldn’t come despite a lot of hard work throughout the team. It looked like it would come onthe hour when Walker received the ball inside the Vale half and headed for goal. He put in a good cross which just evaded both Agogo and Disley by inches for what looked like a certain second goal and Good Night Irene for Vale.
Then came the hammer blow. With 86 minutes on the clock Vale launched a desperate attack. Despite all our efforts, they managed to break through to our 18 yard box and a deflected shot looped into Shearer’s net. It wasn’t his fault and there was nothing anybody could do, and it was a cruel blow to an unfancied Rovers side who had clearly raised their game for this match. It was also heartbreak for the fans who had played a fantastic part in what was a terrific team performance both on and off the pitch, giving fans hope that maybe this team has more to offer than we have maybe seen yet.
Rovers now face Vale in the replay at the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday 13th December. What we need now is a full house to get behind our team we were so proud of last night.
Proud to be a Gashead? You bet!