Port Vale: Keeper's jeepers robs Valiants of crucial victory
THE problem with being a goalkeeper is that everyone remembers your mistakes.
The fact Chris Neal did so much to help win all three points at Bradford City on Saturday will probably be quickly forgotten.
Instead, fans are more likely to recall the clanger that handed Dagenham and Redbridge the lead at Vale Park last night.
There seemed little threat when Dagenham midfielder Luke Howell tried his luck from 25 yards out. The ball was fizzing along the wet grass, but Neal simply had to get behind it and gather.
But the ball somehow squirmed beneath the embarrassed keeper and trickled into the Vale net.
A good job then that Jennison Myrie-Williams cracked home an equaliser just three minutes later to spare his team-mate's blushes.
Fans will probably see a draw against struggling Dagenham and Redbridge as two points dropped rather than one gained, but the visitors were far from pushovers and battled hard to claim a share of the spoils.
Vale boss Micky Adams made one change to his team who beat Bradford.
Sam Morsy was brought back into central midfield and skipper Doug Loft reverted to left-back, meaning no place for Rob Taylor, who made his first start of the season at Valley Parade.
Vale struggled to get into their stride during the early stages, but there was little threat from the visitors either, even when Clayton McDonald gave away an unnecessary free-kick on the right.
Billy Bingham's centre into the Vale box was plucked out of the air by a confident Neal.
Louis Dodds miscued a volley on eight minutes when seemingly well-placed, but there was drama at the other end soon after.
Dagenham midfielder Sam Williams was sent clear by a pass from midfield, having somehow found acres of space beyond the home defence.
But he pushed the ball too far ahead of him, giving Neal the chance to race out of goal in a bid to intercept.
The keeper got there just ahead of Williams, whose ugly lunge brought the crowd to their feet. And they were still fuming when referee Tony Harrington chose only to brandish a yellow card.
Myrie-Williams hit a skimmer which was comfortably collected by Dagenham keeper Chris Lewington, but Vale's flow was then interrupted by an injury to McDonald which left the giant centre-half on the ground and needing treatment.
Tom Pope showed decent control and vision to set Ashley Vincent away down the left on 20 minutes, but having cut inside, the wide man was closed down by a retreating defence before he could hurt the visitors.
Femi Ilesamni showed lightning pace down the left only to be squeezed out by John McCombe as struggling Dagenham, trying to play with three up front at times, showed plenty of intent.
The Valiants found themselves closed down all over the pitch as the well-organised visitors maintained a decent work rate, although they were briefly a man down after half -an-hour when Ryan Burge's shot from distance pole-axed unfortunate defender Scott Doe.
Myrie-Williams was, as ever, posing the biggest threat for the Valiants with his frequent bursts of pace and power down the Daggers' right.
It was the winger who went close to breaking the deadlock on 38 minutes.
Morsy's tackle gave Loft the chance to cross from the left and, when the ball reached Myrie-Williams on the opposite side, he rammed in a shot which was well kept out by Lewington.
Three minutes later Vincent, Vale's other wide man went close as the hosts at last built up a head of steam towards half-time.
He cut in from the left and fired a shot from the edge of the Daggers' penalty area that Lewington kept out with a dive to his right.
The keeper came to Dagenham's rescue again when another Loft cross was met by a thumping header from Pope, which he just clawed away.
The nine-goal striker then wriggled free in space right on half-time to fire in a left-foot effort which Lewington did well to push over at his near post.
Burge was a growing influence on the game at the start of the second half as Vale looked to resume on the front foot.
One gorgeous cross-field pass put Vincent away, but the danger was cleared.
Dodds then fired wide from close range after Myrie-Williams had pulled the ball back from the bye-line, but as the hour mark came and went home fans were growing frustrated by the lack of a breakthrough.
Chris Shuker was thrown on in a bid to provide greater creativity, while striker Ben Williamson added further pace to the front line.
Supporters were demanding a penalty when McDonald tumbled over inside the visitors' box following a raid down the right, but there was nothing much in it.
When Morsy won another tackle, this time in the Dagenham half, Williamson broke clear to rifle a drive not far wide.
But those same Vale fans were stunned into silence on 72 minutes when Howell's tame shot trickled into the net beyond a disbelieving Neal.
Luckily, he didn't have to wait long before Vale were level.
Pressure down the left ended with the ball at the feet of Myrie-Williams some 18 yards out on the corner of the Dagenham penalty box.
He was quick to pull the trigger this time, and his shot cannoned into the net, despite Lewington getting a hand to it.
Strangely, rather than pile forward for the last 10 minutes looking for a wining goal, Vale instead found themselves under the cosh during a spell of Dagenham pressure which had home hearts fluttering.
But there was no need to panic – the usually immaculate Neal won't be fluffing his lines again in a hurry.