Match report: Port Vale 1 Southend United 2
PORT Vale's slump in form continued when they crashed to a disappointing home defeat against Southend.
The out-of-sorts Valiants made it four games without a win at Vale Park and never truly deserved anything from the game.
Sean Clohessy's disputed penalty put the visitors ahead and Britt Assombalonga doubled the misery for Micky Adams's men before half-time.
Lee Hughes pulled one back as Vale, shocking in that first half, improved after the break. But it was never enough to repair the damage.
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Sam Morsy made his first start since New Year's Day in one of four changes to the team which drew against Bradford on Tuesday night.
He replaced the suspended Doug Loft in central midfield, while Chris Shuker came in on the left, having last played on January 5.
Lee Hughes was given another start up front, with Louis Dodds dropping to the bench, and Rob Taylor stepped in at left-back in the absence of knee injury victim Dan Jones.
But there was no place even on the bench for fit-again Ryan Burge.
Little had been seen of Vale as an attacking force before the visitors took the lead after 19 minutes.
Striker Assombalonga found space on the right and delivered a low cross into the penalty area. Darren Purse looked to have played the ball as he slid in on Stoke City loanee Matt Lund, but referee Darren Sheldrake felt otherwise and pointed the spot.
Sean Clohessy stepped up to ram the spot-kick into the top corner of the net.
And matters got much worse for Vale after 31 minutes when Lund found Assombalonga on the edge of the area.
The front man produced a sweet turn to leave Purse for dead before ramming his shot, via a deflection off Anthony Griffith, past a wrong-footed Chris Neal.
Still the Valiants failed to mount a serious response and they could have fallen even further behind on the stroke of half-time.
A high cross into the middle bounced back out to Ryan Leonard, whose terrific 25-yard strike bounced back off the underside of the bar with Neal well beaten.
John McCombe and Chris Birchall replaced Purse and Jennison Myrie-Williams at the start of the second half as Vale boss Micky Adams looked to shake his team into action.
Birchall at last provided a spark for the home side and his deflected shot was tipped over the bar by Southend keeper Paul Smith after 63 minutes.
And Vale had pulled one back a minute later. Shuker found space on the right to deliver an inch-perfect cross that was glanced in by Hughes from eight yards.
The home side were belatedly on the front foot and a series of corners stretched the Southend defence, though Birchall – in the thick of the action - scuffed an effort when well placed.
Birchall's cross was volleyed wide via a deflection by Hughes and the striker went close again after 83 minutes when his clever volley from a free-kick was only just gathered by Smith.
Morsy was just too high with an injury-time effort, but substitute Neil Harris then missed a chance to wrap it up when he dragged wide on the break.
Port Vale: Neal, Duffy, Purse (McCombe, 46), Chilvers, Taylor, Myrie-Williams (Birchall, 46), Morsy, Griffith, Shuker (Andrew, 87), Hughes, Pope. Subs not used: Yates, Dodds, Vincent, Williamson.
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Prosser, Straker, Hurst, Spillane, Mohsni (Harris, 84), Lund, Leonard, Assombalonga (Corr, 84). Subs not used: Bentley, Woodyard, Eastwood, Spicer.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)