Port Vale: Match report v Torquay
AS their ground must be one of the furthest from the coast, it's perhaps no surprise Port Vale enjoy visits to the seaside more than most.
Perhaps they find inspiration in the holiday atmosphere, or maybe it's just the Kiss Me Quick hats.
But yet another successful away-day means the Valiants have now taken an impressive 13 points from a possible 15 against teams on the very edge of the country.
Having already seen off Morecambe, Plymouth and Fleetwood, and drawn at Southend, Micky Adams's men produced another seaside special on the English Riviera.
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Maybe someone should organise a beach party in Burslem for every home game, though the prospect of Norman Smurthwaite parading around the directors' box in Bermuda shorts wouldn't do much for the gate.
It wouldn't help his dose of man flu either, though the bug – perhaps the same one that kept striker Lee Hughes at home – didn't stop the chief executive from travelling to Torquay on Saturday to see his team pick up their 10th away win of the season.
Not since the 1993/94 campaign, when Martin Foyle's goals led John Rudge's team to runners-up spot and promotion from the old Division Two, have the Valiants achieved double figures on the road.
The result also meant Vale have been unbeaten for nine games on their travels – the best run since 1969/70 in another season which ended with promotion, this time to the third tier under Gordon Lee.
It was Hughes's replacement, Calvin Andrew, who was in the right place at the right time to claim what turned out to be the winner.
Doug Loft's 30-yard effort was optimistic to say the least, particularly as the skipper has rarely looked like opening his goal account all season.
But Andrew, lurking just inside the penalty area, made a crucial intervention by deflecting the ball towards the corner of the net, leaving Gulls goalkeeper Michael Poke little chance.
While the front man later claimed he knew what he was doing, it looked more like the stroke of luck which can sometimes make the difference in a promotion race.
The 670 Vale fans, who created a party atmosphere throughout, weren't complaining either way and, as his team went on to see out a victory that was more effective than attractive, Adams was delighted with his team's battling qualities.
"Torquay gave it a good go, but the character we showed was absolutely tremendous," he said.
"In terms of effort and commitment, it was all there. Even from the wide players, who got into decent shape when we lost the ball.
"You can bet your life Doug's shot was going wide because I've never seen him hit the target yet.
"But well done to him for at least being somewhere near the goal and to Calvin for getting a lucky ricochet, but that will not do his confidence any harm.
"We kept it quiet, but Lee Hughes is ill, Ben Williamson rang in with the same thing on Friday and Liam Chilvers pulled up in training.
"But whatever is thrown our way, we just keep answering back, so that's great."
Hughes's absence meant Andrew started up front alongside Tom Pope in one of two changes to the team beaten by Morecambe last week, while Chilvers' injury gave John McCombe the chance to return to central defence.
That meant a return to right-back for Richard Duffy and no place in the team for Adam Yates, while a thumb injury for reserve keeper Sam Johnson meant youngster Ryan Boot, a graduate of the club's centre of excellence, won a place on the bench for the first time.
Torquay might have been without a goal from open play in more than six hours of football before kick-off, but Alan Knill's arrival as interim boss was always going to spark some sort of reaction from his players and the Gulls very nearly ended that barren run after only six minutes.
Striker Rene Howe rose highest to meet a cross from the left with a solid header that was heading into the bottom corner, only for goalkeeper Chris Neal to fling himself acrobatically low to his right to keep it out.
Torquay were pressing again only for Elliot Benyon to fluff a shot when well placed. Though the ball might have cannoned off a Vale hand in the area, referee Keith Hill was right to ignore claims for a penalty.
Neal was on hand again to push over a Billy Bodin free-kick after Ryan Burge had been harshly adjudged to have brought down Ryan Jarvis on the edge of the Vale box.
While there was concern on 18 minutes when Duffy was flattened by a challenge eight yards from his own goal. The Welshman eventually emerged from treatment by physio Andy Foster with a bandage around his head.
With Pope and Andrew working tirelessly up front, and Loft prompting from the middle, the visitors were growing into the game, though the goal, on 29 minutes, still came out of the blue.
Loft wasn't closed down as he received possession 30 yards from goal and he caught his shot well. But it wouldn't have troubled Poke were it not for Andrew's timely intervention.
Vale were better after the break and McCombe went close to doubling the lead with a point-blank header from a Burge corner that required a decent save from Poke.
Andrew, visibly lifted by that goal, was now more prominent and, though he was horribly wide with a long-range effort on the hour mark, he later cracked in a left-foot curler that was well kept out by a diving Poke and tested the home keeper again less than a minute later.
Ashley Vincent had the chance to wrap it up on 78 minutes, having been sent clear of the Torquay defence by a cute pass from Pope.
But the winger's luck was summed up when the ball took a nasty bobble just as he was pulling the trigger and the air shot that followed was almost comical.
The large numbers of fans who turn Vale's annual trip to Torquay into a mini holiday will have no doubt been celebrating long and hard in the guest houses around town on Saturday night.
Let's hope they were making the most of it. For with their team heading into League One, they might not be back for a while. They can perhaps look forward to a weekend in Hartlepool instead.