Port Vale: We're happy to be top dogs now, says hot-shot Richards
MARC Richards believes Vale are now better equipped to handle the pressures of life at the top after climbing back to the summit of League Two, writes Steve Shaw.
The 14-goal striker, pictured below, helped Vale top the table for the first time this season during a five-match winning sequence in September.
But the achievement then sparked a run of one win in four games which saw the team slip back again until last week's 5-0 romp at Stockport saw them reclaim top spot.
"It was nice being top earlier in the season, but it was definitely a learning curve because there was a lot of pressure on us to keep winning," admitted Richards.
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"Although we weren't losing games, we weren't picking up maximum points, but now we're nine games further on we should handle the pressure better.
"The style of football we're playing at the moment also proves how confident we are."
Vale hold a one-point lead over second-placed Chesterfield ahead of Saturday's home clash with League Two newcomers Stevenage.
But they head into the game full of confidence after Friday's 1-0 FA Cup home victory over Accrington extended their unbeaten run to 11 games and secured a fourth successive win.
Stevenage sit 11th in the table, but held Micky Adams's men to a 1-1 draw at Vale Park last season in the FA Cup before narrowly losing the first-round replay 1-0.
"We don't take any game lightly and Stevenage gave us two difficult games last season," added Richards, who is still receiving treatment for a minor knee injury.
"They're a big, strong side, but they like to pass the ball and they're no mugs."
Meanwhile, former youth team striker Anthony Malbon still hopes to play at Football League level again, despite leaving Vale to join Leek Town.
The 19-year-old, who has joined the Evo-Stik First Division South side for the rest of the season, said: "It was my decision to leave Vale, but I am not going to stop believing I can play in the Football League. I will get a chance somewhere and I will try to take it."
Malbon joined Vale from Derby in February 2008 and made his first-team debut in the Valiants 2-1 win over Barnet on May 2, 2009.
He won Vale's Youth Player of the Year award after scoring 23 goals last term.
Malbon spent a three-week period at Harrison Park in February, scoring two goals on debut, and said: "To be honest, I wanted to go back to Leek, so when I got the phone call I wanted to sign as quick as possible."
He made his Blues debut last week when Neil Cox's men drew 2-2 with Romulus.