Port Vale: More home woes for misfiring Valiants
A NEW Year's Day hangover or the return of familiar problems at home?
While the Valiants have been almost irresistible on their travels this season, their results at Vale Park have been less impressive.
• GALLERY: Match Action: Port Vale 0 Fleetwood Town 2
And this was another game in which Micky Adams's men failed to replicate their scintillating form on the road.
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Although Vale made, and squandered, several opportunities, first-half goals from David Ball and Alan Goodall put the home side on the back foot and their fate was sealed when Jennison Myrie-Williams had a second-half penalty saved.
While it was only their third defeat on home territory, it was the seventh time they have failed to win at Vale Park in 12 games.
Boss Micky Adams stuck with the team who beat Dagenham and Redbridge to go top of the table on Saturday.
That meant a second successive start for Calvin Andrew on the left of midfield, while winger Ashley Vincent, having recovered from a stomach bug, was on the substitutes' bench.
Vale made a bright start and Tom Pope was presented with a couple of chances early on.
The 23-goal striker found plenty of space in the Fleetwood penalty area on four minutes to collect a cross from Adam Yates, but his shot was comfortably gathered by visiting keeper Scott Davies.
Pope went close again on five minutes, taking control of a Sam Morsy pass before seeing his shot this time palmed behind by Davies for a corner.
It wasn't all one-way traffic though and Fleetwood, unbeaten in four games under new boss Graham Alexander, went close to taking the lead themselves soon after.
Junior Brown went on a run down the left and his ball inside found Ball in space.
The striker took a touch before firing a shot across Chris Neal that the goalkeeper did well to push behind at full length.
Skipper John McCombe was feeling the pain after making a challenge on Ball when the referee had already blown up for offside. And he paid the price when he was forced off soon after, to be replaced by Clayton McDonald.
Myrie-Williams's low shot from 30 yards, which was well wide, brought a groan from a section of the crowd already frustrated by Vale's inability to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
And Pope squandered another chance to give his side the lead on 25 minutes, heading wide from a Morsy cross when well placed.
Vale were to pay for that miss soon after when Fleetwood took the lead. Brown's free-kick to the far post was headed back across goal by Goodall and Ball sneaked in to divert a close-range shot on goal.
The ball seemed to get stuck under the feet of defenders McDonald and Liam Chilvers on the line, but the assistant referee was right to signal a goal.
As the home side struggled to find any momentum, Fleetwood went close again when Brown seized control in midfield before firing a shot from 25 yards out just wide of Neal's left-hand post.
And Adams's side were staring down the barrel six minutes before the break when Fleetwood doubled their advantage.
Damien Johnson's free-kick was headed in by Goodall as the defence went AWOL.
Vale were in need of a good start to the second half.
A free-kick 22 yards from the Fleetwood goal provided an early opportunity, but Ryan Burge put his effort into the wall.
And when Andrew's shot from the edge of the Fleetwood area on 53 minutes was deflected into the path of Louis Dodds, the forward skied his shot well over the bar.
Adams made a double substitution before the hour mark in the hope of sparking his side into life.
Vincent replaced Andrew on the left and Rob Taylor was thrown on in place of Richard Duffy, with Yates switching from left to right-back.
Vincent was in the action almost straight away, firing a low shot from an angle into the side-netting following some pinball in the Fleetwood penalty area.
But Vale should have been back on it after 67 minutes. Myrie-Williams left Dean Howell in his wake on a run into the Fleetwood box and was then pushed over as the defender tried to recover.
It looked an easy decision to award the penalty, but Myrie-Williams – previously so deadly from the spot this season – completely fluffed his lines.
His poor spot-kick was hit almost straight down the middle, allowing keeper Davies to save with his legs before the rebound was cleared by grateful defenders.
The miss seemed to deflate the Valiants, who never really threatened after that.
Although they pushed forward when they could, a well-organised Fleetwood side always had enough to cope at the back, meaning a frustrating start to the new year for the Valiants.