Port Vale: Neal out to keep things clean
CHRIS Neal is desperate to build on his first shut-out in six games.
The former Shrewsbury goalkeeper played a starring role as Vale claimed a point from a goalless draw at Southend on Saturday.
Now he wants more clean sheets as the race for promotion gathers pace.
"We hadn't kept the opposition out in a while," he admitted, "so it was important to apply ourselves and defend well at Southend, which is a tough place to go.
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"We wanted to keep things tight and we came away with a draw, so we're pleased."
Neal's last clean sheet was in the 3-0 win against Oxford United on September 15.
But he pulled off a string of fine saves to keep the home side at bay, particularly during the first half.
"I came here wanting to build on a great record we had at Shrewsbury last year, when we kept 19 clean sheets in 46 games," he added.
"But we play a lot more expansive football here, so we have to accept we're going to concede goals.
"But that's how we play and if we're second in the league at the end of the season, then no-one will worry about our defensive record."
Neal said recent changes to the back four, enforced by injuries and suspensions, had not helped.
"It's been tough because we've had to chop and change the back four," he added.
"We had the same back five for the first 10 or 11 games of the season and that has obviously had to change.
"But the lads who've come in have applied themselves really well and I've been impressed with them.
"It's good that their hard work has paid off with clean sheets."
Winger Ashley Vincent will be suspended for Saturday's game against York, having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, but centre-half John McCombe will be available following his three-match ban for his red card at Northampton.
"It will be good to have John back," said Neal. "As well as the lads who have come in have done, we miss having an experienced defender.
"John plays consistently well every week and he's been a big miss."