Chris Neal: Consistency key to Port Vale promotion push
CHRIS Neal says consistency will be crucial to Port Vale’s push for promotion. And the popular goalkeeper is talking from personal experience.
Neal, who helped Shrewsbury Town win a place in League One last season, insists the Valiants remain on course despite a midweek setback against Fleetwood Town.
But he says they must find a way of producing results week in, week out if they are to achieve their ultimate goal.
“We must become consistent both at home and away,” said the 27-year-old ahead of today’s game against struggling Plymouth Argyle.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
“Our away form has been pleasing this season, but now we have to do it at Vale Park too.
“Consistency is going to be a big factor from now on and we can’t afford to keep slipping in the odd bad performance.”
Neal reckons it’s crucial that boss Micky Adams now has options within his squad, with new faces perhaps arriving before the end of the month.
“We started the season with a small squad, but the gaffer has been adding to it here and there.
“It’s important that he can chop and change when he needs to, because that can help keep results consistent too.
“It means if someone’s form dips, he can bring in someone else for a game or two, and swap it around.”
Tuesday’s disappointing 2-0 defeat by the Cod Army meant Vale dropped off top spot after just one week at the summit.
Gillingham regained pole position by beating Southend, while Rotherham moved up to third and are now just three points behind the Valiants, after winning at Rochdale.
Things could have been even closer but for Cheltenham’s surprising defeat at Oxford.
“It’s getting a bit tight at the top and we’ve got to make sure we stay in that first three,” added Neal. “We’re still in second and we’re there to be shot at, but we must embrace that.
“We’ve got important games coming up against Plymouth and then Gillingham next week and it’s important to keep putting points on the board.
“Our main target is promotion. Being at the top means nothing at Christmas.
“We’ve made a great start, but we’re only at the halfway stage. Let’s just make sure we continue it now.”
One thing that will work in Vale’s favour is the tremendous dressing-room spirit within the camp.
“You need to have a good mentality in the squad and we certainly have that,” said Neal.
“The atmosphere and camaraderie is brilliant in the changing room and there is a definite resemblance from my time at Shrewsbury last year on that score.
“I can tell you it makes a big difference.”
A more obvious factor to the team’s success so far has been the flourishing strike partnership between Tom Pope and Louis Dodds.
While 23-goal hitman Pope, below, has been winning most of the plaudits, Dodds has played a crucial supporting role and has chipped in with seven goals of his own, including three in three ahead of the Fleetwood game.
“I like that combination,” said Neal, “and they seem to like playing together.
“They complement each other so well.
“Popey’s finishing has been outstanding and he also holds the ball up so well and wins his headers.
“Doddsy likes to play in the pocket of space in front of the back four.
“It’s a strong partnership for us and long may it continue like that.”