Port Vale: Match report v Dagenham & Redbridge
MICKY Adams's transfer budget during the first few months of the season wouldn't have stretched to a pair of frayed underpants at the car boot sale being advertised in Dagenham on Saturday.
The arrival of new owners means the Port Vale boss is at last armed with a certain amount of cash to spend, but he might yet think twice about splashing out in the January sales.
Adams's approach to the transfer window, which opens on Tuesday, was always going to depend on results. And with two Christmas wins having lifted his team into pole position, who's to say he needs fresh faces?
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He might yet decide to freshen up his squad for the second half of the campaign. But there's no doubting his current crop have done him proud so far and victory at Dagenham and Redbridge means the Valiants head into the new year in rude health just as they are, thanks very much.
Martin Allen looked far from pleased as he watched his team being knocked off the League Two summit for the first time this season.
The Gillingham manager, whose own team had been rained off, sat stoney-faced along from the press box as Vale won this game with a scintillating first-half performance.
Goals from Tom Pope (yet again), Jennison Myrie-Williams and the best of the lot from Louis Dodds made it eight away wins so far and sent 256 fans at one end of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium into dreamland.
"We are top o' the league," was their predictable response, followed by a slightly more random rendition of the Depeche Mode classic "I Just Can't Get Enough".
With Doug Loft suffering from another calf strain and Ashley Vincent having failed to recover from his Christmas stomach bug, striker Calvin Andrew was a surprise choice to fill in at left midfield as boss Micky Adams reverted to his favoured 4-4-2 formation.
And while Dagenham midfielder Kevin Maher pressed goalkeeper Chris Neal into an early save with a volley from the edge of the area, it was the Valiants who took an early grip on the game.
Just four minutes had gone when Adam Yates speared in a long throw from the left which had home keeper Chris Lewington at sixes and sevens.
He rushed out for a ball he was never going to get and John McCombe's flick gave Pope a chance he was never going to miss. The striker duly netted his 23rd goal of his incredible season and Vale were on their way.
Things got even better after nine minutes when Dodds hooked a gorgeous first-time pass behind left-back Femi Ilesanmi and into the path of Myrie-Williams.
The fleet-footed winger ran in on goal and rammed his shot beneath the hapless Lewington to double the visitors' advantage.
It was difficult to see a way back for Dagenham even at that early stage, but the home side mounted a rare counter after 16 minutes and were duly rewarded.
Vale seemed to have committed too many men forward as the Daggers burst forward at pace. Sam Williams surged down the right side of the box and, when Liam Chilvers stuck out a foot to stop him, the striker went tumbling.
Chilvers looked to have played the ball and referee Dave Phillips looked unsure, but his assistant gave the signal for a penalty and no amount of protests, particularly from the aggrieved McCombe, would change the decision.
It was two minutes after the original incident when Williams sent Neal the wrong way from the spot to halve the deficit.
While Michael Spillane had a shot kept out by Neal, Vale could have gone further ahead when Pope's strong header from a Ryan Burge corner was somehow shovelled behind for a corner.
Andrew, posing problems with his physical threat, had a header deflected just over before Dodds produced a devastating finish to re-establish his side's two-goal lead.
Sam Morsy's ball out of defence on 39 minutes relieved a spell of pressure, which perhaps explained why the front man was in so much space on the halfway line. But there was still plenty to do and Dodds did well to control and race forward before pulling the trigger on a stunning volley which flashed past Lewington for his third goal in as many games.
Dagenham needed to storm out of the blocks after the break and were very nearly given a lifeline after 50 minutes, only for Luke Wilkinson to divert Medy Elito's free-kick just wide.
At the other end, a Myrie-Williams cross gave Pope the chance to get in a header that was cleared off the line by retreating defender Scott Doe and Dodds went close again with a brilliant turn and volley from the edge of the area that whistled just over.
Myrie-Williams was cursing his poor control, having been put through by Burge on 68 minutes. He took a touch that was just too strong and the ball ran away from him at the critical moment, allowing a retreating defender to clear with the help of the grounded Lewington.
Spillane tested Neal once more with a weighted chip from 20 yards that the keeper did well to turn over the angle of post and bar and, as the heavens opened for the last 10 minutes, Dagenham threatened again with substitute Brian Woodall's header cleared off the line by Richard Duffy.
Home fans were on their feet after 83 minutes, having been given hope of an unlikely comeback. A cross from the right was headed back across the area and the ball found its way through to Doe, lurking beyond the far post. His firmly-struck shot squeezed between Neal's hand and his near post.
As heavy rain hammered down, you half-feared the worst, but this Vale team stand up to be counted and there were few other alarms.
The last time the Valiants went top of the table was on November 23, 2010 after a 5-0 win at Stockport. But they lost their next game at Morecambe and Adams left for Sheffield United soon after.
With the manager here to stay this time, let's hope they're top dogs for a lot longer on this occasion.