Sloppy Port Vale let it slip as York fight back
SUPPORTERS hoping to round off a day of celebration in style went home disappointed as the Port Vale party fell a little flat.
As the club toasted its greatest-ever servant, it was a shame the team couldn't extend the jubilant mood.
• GALLERY: Match Action: Port Vale 2 York City 2
The beer had run out, the bunting had fallen down and someone had popped all the balloons.
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You doubt whether Roy Sproson, the club's record appearance holder to whom a magnificent statue was unveiled in front of the main entrance before the match, would have been impressed.
Vale let a two-goal lead slip for the second time in successive home games to make it five league matches without a win with a strangely subdued performance that left boss Micky Adams scratching his head.
"It was obviously disappointing and you have to say it's points dropped again," he said.
"It was a special day for supporters to recognise one of the great stalwarts of Port Vale's history and we're disappointed we couldn't send them home happy.
"Whether we deserved the win was debatable, to be honest. I thought we were sloppy."
It was an honest assessment by the manager, who admitted his players were perhaps feeling the strain.
"I've got a few players who need a bit of loving at the moment," he added.
"They're going through a spell where every little mistake is costing them goals.
"Some of them seem to be feeling a bit sorry for themselves, and until the takeover of the club is completed and the situation with the (transfer) embargo on us changes, we've just got to get on with it.
"It's not a time for people to criticise and get on the players' backs, so I'll have to put my arm around a few of them, even if I feel like strangling them at times."
With the official unveiling of the Sproson memorial having lifted spirits all round, fans must have been hoping to see the Valiants, still riding high after all, blow away a York side stuck in mid-table.
But football is a fickle creature which often refuses to follow the script and there was little to suggest there was any distance between the teams throughout a Vale performance which failed to truly take off, even after they'd gone in at half-time with a two-goal lead.
Adams had sprung something of a surprise in covering for suspended winger Ashley Vincent by pushing Rob Taylor forward and switching Adam Yates to left-back.
With Richard Duffy returning to action on the other side of defence, and John McCombe returning in the centre, the back four was almost completely different from the one which kept a clean sheet at Southend last week.
Chris Shuker was brought into the centre of midfield, with Louis Dodds back alongside Tom Pope up front.
But there had been almost nothing to report before the clock ticked past 8:37 to spark a rousing minute's applause marking Sproson's record number of starts.
Vale prodded and probed, but it was 13 minutes before Taylor dug out a decent cross from next to the corner flag to give Pope the chance to get in a header. The striker couldn't get enough power on it though, and York keeper Michael Ingham made a meal of a comfortable save.
The impressive Jamie Reed flashed a shot wide from the edge of the area as York posted notice of their intent and, as Vale struggled to make headway, the visitors were soon pushing again.
Clayton McDonald was knocked flat by a pile-driver from Alex Redman, but got up quickly to make another headed clearance straight away.
The defender almost looked groggy as the home side eventually cleared their lines.
With Jennison Myrie-Williams for once struggling to make an impact, Vale were doing little to suggest they could unlock a tight York defence. Yet they took the lead on the half-hour.
Duffy did well to collect a pass which bounced awkwardly and ran on down the right to deliver a low cross into the box. Pope's effort was blocked by Ingham, but Ryan Burge steamed in to slam home the rebound from close range.
Dodds lifted one over after claims for handball inside the York area had been ignored, but it was almost with a sense of surprise that the Valiants went two up before the break.
Yates burst forward down the left and Shuker's shot from 20 yards hit visiting captain Chris Smith.
Referee Jeremy Simpson felt he'd used a hand and Myrie-Williams rolled home the spot-kick low to the keeper's right.
Fans might have been thinking there was now only one winner, but York – unlucky to be two down in the first place – turned up the heat in the second half.
The visitors dominated possession without reward as much of their shooting was wayward. But they were to put that right on 67 minutes.
McDonald failed to make an important tackle on Reed as City stormed forward and Rodman broke the offside trap to steal in behind and slide the ball past advancing keeper Chris Neal.
Adams made a double substitution in a bid to stem the tide, handing new boy Sean McAllister his debut in midfield and throwing on striker Ben Williamson too.
But York continued to hold the upper hand and grabbed the goal they probably deserved with a minute of normal time remaining.
Smith somehow rose highest at the far post to direct a header across goal and into the path of Reed, who was on hand to thump home a volley.
Vale mounted a final rally in which Williamson had a shot hooked off the line and Dodds also went close, but they'd discovered their momentum all too late.
A two-goal lead is proving something of a problem to hang on to, but Adams dismissed suggestions that either nervousness or complacency were to blame.
"Nah, we're just being sloppy," he insisted, "and it's basic errors at the back which are costing us.
"The danger signs were there. The boys were fully aware of how good a side York are, and they've proved that, but we didn't deal with them.
"We never got hold of the ball effectively in the second half and even when we did, we gave it away cheaply.
"We were two up and not playing particularly well, but good sides would have gone on to win it 2-0 and not have given the opposition a sniff.
"As a team performance, it was average to say the least, but we'll go again on Tuesday (at home to Bristol Rovers).
"One or two of the players seem to be off the pace at the moment, but we need them again and we'll be ready for an important game."