Southend United 0, Port Vale 0
GOALKEEPER Chris Neal produced a man-of-the-match display to
help Port Vale pick up a hard-earned point on the road.
The stopper made a string of fine saves to keep Southend at
bay and, with their big guns firing blanks for once, the Valiants were forced
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to settle for a share of the spoils.
While boss Micky Adams is likely to be happy with a point,
he'll be less impressed by a booking for Ashley Vincent which means the winger
will now be suspended.
The Vale side showed two changes to the one held to a draw
by Rochdale in midweek. Rob Taylor replaced the injured Doug Loft at left-back,
with Louis Dodds taking an unfamiliar central midfield role in the absence of
the suspended Sam Morsy.
Sean McAllister was included on the bench after joining the
club on an initial eight-week contract.
Vale were looking bright early on and Ben Williamson had
already had a shot from the edge of the penalty area saved before Dodds went close
to giving the visitors the lead.
Taylor burst between two defenders on the left before
delivering a low cross that was cleared only as far as Dodds, but his shot was
blocked at close range.
Vale had the ball in the net after 17 minutes, but Vincent was
ruled to have used his hand to control a Tom Pope knockdown before steering the
ball into the net from close range. He was booked and now faces a one-match ban
for his fifth caution of the season.
Neal was in the action again after 24 minutes when he dived
to his right to brilliantly turn away a stinging volley from Gavin Tomlin.
And Tomlin went close again soon after, getting the better
of McDonald down the right before racing inside to fire a shot against the
outside of a post.
At the other end, Williamson burst on to Pope's lay-off and
produced a powerful cross-shot which was well saved by Southend keeper Paul
Tomlin went close once more with an angled drive which
crashed against the far post with Neal well beaten and, as the home side built
up a head of steam, the Vale keeper was called on twice more in the space of
two minutes. First he kept out Assombalonga's shot from the edge of the area,
then dived full length to his right to keep out Tomlin yet again.
When Neal couldn't cut out a low cross from the right five
minutes from the break, Chris Barker looked odds-on to score, but Joe Davis
launched himself at the left-back's shot to make a crucial last-gasp block.
Jennison Myrie-Williams, uncharacteristically quiet up to
now, burst into life with a long run down the left which ended with a shot
which was well kept out by Smith.
Pope went tumbling under a challenge at the start of the
second half, sparking claims for a penalty that were waived away by referee
United mounted a sustained spell of pressure which culminated
in a shot from former Vale loanee Marc Laird which was blocked by Pope, then
Neal came to the rescue again with another important save, this time to deny
Southend did much of the pressing from then on, but failed
to truly threaten as the visitors mounted a stout defence and Vale should have
won at the end of normal time. Vincent ran through on goal but shot too close
to keeper Smith, who made the block. The ball ran free to Pope inside the area,
but his shot was blocked by Mark Phillips.
Southend United: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips,
Timlin, Hurst (Corr, 70), Mkandawire, Laird, Timlin, Assombalonga (Eastwood,
86), Tomlin. Subs not used: Bentley, Prosser, Leonard, Spicer, Woodyard.
Port Vale: Neal, Yates, Davis, McDonald, Taylor,
Myrie-Williams (Duffy, 89), Dodds, Burge, Vincent, Williamson (Shuker, 68),
Pope. Subs not used: Johnson, McAllister, James, Lloyd.
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)