Match analysis: Port Vale 4, Wycombe 1
GOAL-DEN times at Port Vale are being built on the principles of supply and demand.
It's a simple and effective policy which is reaping rich rewards and, unlike the rest of recession-hit Britain, it shows no sign of slowing down.
Micky Adams's busy production line just keeps delivering the goods and Tom Pope is at the top of the chain, helping himself to endless riches... "Feed the Pope and he will score".
The striker is in the form of his life and made it 15 goals from just 16 matches with another double to spark a second-half revival against Wycombe Wanderers.
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But he's always the first to admit how much he relies on Vale's less heralded service industry, plus an endless supply of crosses from his team-mates which enables him to cream off the profits.
The fact that goalkeeper Chris Neal was named man of the match in what, on the face of it, looks like a comprehensive win shows just what an all-round team effort it was.
But the result fails to tell the whole story and this victory was anything but as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
In fact, had it not been for a flashpoint at the end of the first half, in which Jo Kuffour was sent packing after a senseless challenge on Neal, things might have been different.
Gareth Ainsworth's Wycombe more than held their own during a first half in which the home side, for all of their firepower, couldn't get going.
The visitors took the lead and supporters were becoming frustrated, both by the impotence of their own team and the performance of woeful referee Carl Boyeson.
But the experienced Kuffour, cautioned only a few minutes earlier for a bout of handbags with John McCombe, saw fit to jump in on Neal, who was making a routine clearance down the right.
And the red card that followed, as both managers agreed afterwards, was the turning point.
The Valiants came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half and rammed home their numerical advantage with a four-goal burst which put a lop-sided reflection on the result.
With Doug Loft, Ryan Burge and Sam Morsy missing, Darren Murphy was called in to make his full debut in a new-look central midfield alongside Chris Shuker.
And Vale started well enough with Ashley Vincent pressing Wanderers goalkeeper Nikki Bull into a point-blank block early on.
Former Valiants winger Ainsworth, though, has fostered a new spirit since taking over in a caretaker capacity and the visitors showed they'd be no pushovers.
They had already produced some lively forward play when Boyeson gave them the chance to take the lead after 20 minutes.
Bruno Andrade linked up with Kuffour on the edge of the box and when the winger tumbled over inside the area, the East Yorkshire official ruled he'd been upended by McCombe.
It looked a harsh decision, but former Crewe winger Joel Grant wasn't complaining as he slid home the penalty.
Vincent might have levelled soon after only to be denied by the alert Bull, who blocked a shot with his legs.
But Vale were getting little change out of a well-drilled Wycombe rearguard, with Pope particularly well-marshalled by centre-halves Leon Johnson and Gary Doherty.
The referee was at the centre of attention again when he booked both McCombe and Kuffour after a spat on halfway.
But his next decision must have baffled everyone in the ground as Murphy burst into the box and was unceremoniously dumped to the ground by Doherty.
Play on, ruled the official, to a chorus of "you're not fit to referee".
All eyes were on Boyeson again after Kuffour's challenge on Neal only a minute before the break and, this time, he did get it right, producing a second yellow to send the striker on his way.
Murphy glanced a header just wide as Vale, with a half-time rollicking ringing in their ears, started the second half on the front foot.
But they could so easily have fallen two behind on 51 minutes when Grant cut inside to fire a right-foot curler towards the top corner.
Neal had other ideas and leapt high to his left to produce a magnificent finger-tip save.
The moment was made more remarkable by the fact he'd had a dislocated finger popped back into place by physio Andy Foster during the first half.
It took a change in personnel to spark the comeback.
Striker Ben Williamson was thrown on to beef up the attack and had done his job after only five minutes on the field.
Pope made space with a cute turn, then slid a beautifully-timed pass into the path of his fellow front man, who ran beyond the Wycombe defence and grabbed his first goal of the season with a cool finish.
With an hour gone, Vale were looking irresistible and they surged in front six minutes later.
Jennison Myrie-Williams, perhaps the foreman of the production line with six assists so far, popped up on the left to float over a cross and Pope won the race to plant a header past Bull and into the net.
That might have been it, but the Valiants are hungry for goals these days and there was time to add two more to the tally.
A cross from substitute Kingsley James gave Pope the chance to climb highest and send a fabulous header into the top corner with only three minutes to go.
Then Vincent rounded things off in injury time with a shot from 25 yards. Keeper Bull half-stopped his effort, but the ball had enough momentum to roll backwards and over the line before he could recover.
The result left Ainsworth, who doubles up as the front man in a rock band, singing the blues instead.
Vale, meanwhile, march on amid their best start to a league campaign since the glory days of 1953/54 and they'll be gunning for more points at Burton tomorrow.
Pope will be hoping that production line is running at full throttle.