Port Vale v Scunthorpe United

Monday, January 1, 2007

Football League One

Port Vale0 (0)Scunthorpe United0 (0)

Port Vale :
Anyon, Walsh, Walker, Pilkington, Gardner, Whitaker (Hulbert 40), Harsley, Smith, Talbot (Smith 76), Sodje, Husbands (Lowndes 74)
Subs not used:
Prosser, Cardle

Scunthorpe United :
Murphy, Hinds, Byrne, Crosby, Foster, MacKenzie (Morris 60), Taylor (Foy 80), Williams, Baraclough (Goodwin 49), Sharp, Keogh
Subs not used:
Lillis, Ridley


by Bob Dook at Vale Park

HAPPY New Year to all SULSESC members.

Usually at this time of year, results start to go downhill for the Iron. Many note this as the ‘mid-season slump’, a sort of pre-ordained condition that befalls us every year. Some believe that the precursors show up in December, but this season we had seen little of these.

We had a wonderful December and were proudly sitting on top of the table. Hopefully, by the time you read this, we have not fallen too badly and out of contention for Championship football next season.

The potters in the Potteries have been around since the 17th century, taking advantage of the surrounding combination of coal, clay and water. This location on natural resources is one which is all too familiar for us Scunthonians. However, this was not the topic of conversation as David Pratt and I travelled across from North Lincolnshire on New Year’s morning. We were trying to put our grey cells together to remember the names of the towns that were immortalised by writer Arnold Bennett as the Potteries. We had Stoke, Hanley and Burslem. Subsequently, I‘ve looked up the remainder – Tunstall, Fenton and Longton.

With David at the wheel, I was acting as navigator and had set a new route based on an age-old exploration technique of drawing a straight line between two points and trying to follow it as closely as possible. A wonderful trip across the less travelled side roads of the Staffordshire moors was particularly rewarding.

No doubt the SULSESC beer drinkers enjoyed their tipples in the designated pub in one of the squares that seem to make up Burslem. A rationalised view of Latin influence in the town was totally inappropriate, as noted by the lack of tour groups marauding through the streets and the distinct lack of renaissance architecture and over-the-top fountains. The whole place was empty apart from Iron fans parking up, a few Vale fans hurrying for the pub and the odd local asking who they were playing today. The stoic Bull’s Head was not my kind of place, a beer drinker I am not and I was particularly let down by lack of proper food. White bread sandwiches indeed!

My disappointment was dispelled though with the pleasurable company of a Professor of Sociology, taking time out of research into the social impact of no Central trains on New Year’s Day, a double helping of dignitaries namely Lord and Lady Bakewell and Lord and Lady Leatherhead, who graciously spent their time humouring the gathering of peasants from Burton, Winterton, Lincoln, Kent and the colonies with their gifts of purposeful smiles. Oh, how jolly we were! Top of the table, a sense of pride engulfed everyone. Was this to be our year to return to the division that we should never have left?

“I mean, he goes on a bit, doesn’t he …”

What else is there to say? A very drab, boring, soulless 0-0 draw. Yeah, we could have won it if Billy had removed his digit in the last minute but, hey, I was up for a point at kick-off and in the end happy to take one home.

Nothing was made of Paul Harsley and Michael Walsh, both ex-Iron players turning out for Vale. In fact, more discussion was held about the atrocious weather conditions, particularly in the first-half.

During a particular lull in, yawnnnnn, play, an executive driver from Milton Keynes commented to me on how one might choose the deluxe sponsorship box versus the standard fare, comparing a glass cover to an open natural ventilation option. In the horizontal driving sleet, I accepted that he had a fair point.

The Iron lined up with a 4-3-3 formation, anchoring MacKenzie in midfield alongside Baraclough and Hinds. Now, I like Mackenzie, he’s just who we need as cover for Sparrow. He is a very creative player and on the day was easily our best outfield player, before being removed by Adkins. Indeed, it was MacKenzie who came closest to scoring with a good 25-yarder, which the debutant ‘keeper did well to turn round the post.

Port Vale had the better of the first-half and Murphy kept us in it, as did Keogh with an inspired goalline clearance. The second-half was more productive in terms of turning possession into chances. We looked a better side this period, although not one that stood out as top-of-the-table. The removal of MacKenzie had thwarted any real chance of progressing through the middle with Hinds and Goodwin there, so we had to go wide. We began to run at the Valiants more and one or two opportunities were made.

Unfortunately, tired legs after the Christmas period and the heavy surface took their toll and the game petered out for both teams. Billy Sharp had a last minute strike from an early Keogh cross, which the ‘keeper did well to save. Unfortunately, the second ball was squandered, as Billy attempted a curling shot past the retreating ‘keeper, only to see it miss the mark.

Having ended up with 10 out of 12 points over Christmas was a great return. We picked up a few injuries during the final game here in Burslem, notably Baraclough and Byrne. It’s that time of the season when the squad will be tested to the full. I think we need a full back, midfielder and striker now, maybe on loan to give us a real chance of getting through this mid-season unscathed.

“Refulget labores nostros coelo”