Port Vale: Match report v AFC Wimbledon
THERE can't be many players who can claim to have scored a better goal on their debut.
Daniel Jones's stunning long-range effort was perfectly timed too.
Vale were staring down the barrel as they headed towards half-time at struggling AFC Wimbledon already two down.
Jack Midson's double strike, the second of which was from the spot, had given them a mountain to climb.
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But the left-back, signed only last week, made an instant impact when he drilled home from more than 30 yards just before the break.
Tom Pope's 27th goal of the season in the second half, a classy finish from the tightest of angles, levelled matters and, though the Valiants had to settle for a share of the spoils in the end, they perhaps deserved much more.
Veteran goalkeeper Neil Sullivan pulled off several fine saves as the visitors, on the front foot for much of the match despite conceding twice, pressed forward at every opportunity.
Two points lost, but having been two down, it was perhaps one gained.
New signing Jones was handed his first outing as boss Micky Adams made just one change from the team which beat Gillingham last time out.
The former Sheffield Wednesday defender replaced Adam Yates at left-back.
Striker Louis Dodds remains sidelined by a calf strain and defender Rob Taylor missed out after having an injection on a niggling Achilles injury.
There was little to get excited about in the opening moments as Doug Loft skied an early effort well over the bar and Ryan Burge was lucky to escape unscathed from a strong challenge on Vale's left.
Wimbledon's Luke Moore could have done better when he mistimed a volley from a promising position after five minutes and Jonathan Meades fired over the angle from 25 yards as the home side threatened again.
Vale received a major setback when they fell behind after eight minutes. Jim Fenlon fired in a decent low cross from the right and Midson nipped in front of the visiting defenders to direct a first-time effort beyond goalkeeper Chris Neal and into the far corner.
It was the fourth game in a row that Midson has found the net against Vale.
The Valiants were almost back in it after 15 minutes following brilliant play from Burge. The midfielder robbed left-back Chris Hussey and drove into the penalty area before unleashing a shot from an angle which had veteran stopper Neil Sullivan diving full length to his right.
Ashley Vincent couldn't control his shot from the rebound.
Jones showed electric pace to burst into the Wimbledon half, but was brought down by Toby Ajala, a challenge which earned the Dons man a booking.
Vale were doing much of the pressing without creating clear chances until Richard Duffy let fly from 20 yards after 27 minutes, forcing an unsighted Sullivan into another save.
Tom Pope's header from the subsequent corner was dropped on by the increasingly busy keeper.
You sensed a goal was coming and, though Moore's cross was headed over by Paul McCallum at the other end, the men in yellow remained the likelier side.
But Wimbledon survived that rocky patch and were growing more into the game towards half-time, a fact underlined when they doubled their lead on 42 minutes.
Luke Moore swung in a corner from the left and as centre-half Liam Chilvers tangled with Dons defender Pim Balkestein, referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot.
Midson stepped up to fire home the penalty and Vale were suddenly staring down the barrel.
But they were back in the game a minute before the break thanks to a stunning strike from the new boy.
There didn't seem to be much danger when Jones picked up possession some 35 yards from goal, but he took a touch and launched a missile of a shot which fizzed all along the grass and beat Sullivan's despairing dive.
It was little more than Vale deserved and was precisely what the doctor ordered, just before half-time.
The visitors were given something of a let-off straight after the break when Ajala's long-range shot deflected off Midson and past wrong-footed keeper Chris Neal. But the offside flag provided welcome relief.
Vale were soon pushing forward again, though and Duffy's cross from the right was met with a flying header from Pope after 58 minutes that was well saved by Sullivan, diving to his left.
Three minutes later and the visitors were level through that man Pope.
The striker nipped in to intercept a back-pass from Mat Mitchel-King, but looked to have run out of room as he took the ball around the advancing Sullivan.
Yet he kept his head to find a sublime finish from the tightest of angles and Wimbledon's two-goal advantage had been wiped out.
Lee Hughes had a chance to put Vale ahead after 63 minutes, but fired tamely at Sullivan after a great run from Jennison Myrie-Williams.
Substitute Calvin Andrew, having replaced Ashley Vincent, found space on the left of the area with his first touch, but fired straight at the keeper, while Adams also threw on striker Ben Williamson to replace Hughes, who had struggled to make an impact.
Loft, having been booked after 71 minutes, was given another lecture by the referee after a foul on Chris Hussey not long after and was perhaps wisely substituted almost straight away.
As the game moved into the final five minutes, Vale fans were praying for a final flourish from their side.
It might have arrived with 82 on the clock, but Sullivan dived to keep out a 25-yard free-kick from Myrie-Williams.
The addition of five extra minutes gave them every chance and it was now one-way traffic as Vale desperately searched for a winner which simply refused to come.