Port Vale 0-1 Walsall: Vale fall to fifth after second consecutive defeat at hands of Walsall
BURSLEM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: Tom Conlon of Port Vale moves away from Joss Labadie during the Sky Bet League Two match between Port Vale and Walsall at Vale Park on November 23, 2021 in Burslem, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Port Vale slipped down three places to fifth in the League Two table after falling to a 1-0 defeat at home to manager Darrell Clarke's former club Walsall.

A 29th-minute strike by Brendan Kiernan was enough to ensure that it wasn't a happy return for Clarke, who left the Saddlers to join Vale in February.

Despite enjoying a so-far successful season with Vale, his side, who ended the game with ten men after Tom Conlon was sent off for a second bookable offence, put in an overall lacklustre performance, not accumulating a single shot on target in the match.

This result marked a second consecutive defeat for the Valiants whilst they are now winless in three.

Meanwhile, this monumental result for Walsall, which is their sixth in a row at Vale Park, sees them remain in 12th.

However, it does put an end to their four-game winless run as Matthew Taylor's side put in an impressive and well-fought showing on the road.

Story of the game

The Saddlers made the brighter start, having a free-kick from range taken by Conor Wilkinson inside two minutes, but Lucas Colovan collected the drive at the second attempt.

With Vale under the cosh, they were slightly fortunate to not go behind just after the quarter of an hour mark when a Jack Earing free-kick from the right was met by George Miller, but his header trickled narrowly wide of the target.

Four minutes later Miller was at the front of the action again, this time with good footwork down the right, but his drilled effort was well got down to by Covolan.

Inside 24 minutes with the intense pressure continuing from the visitors, Covolan saved the Valiants again when Emmanuel Osadebe slipped in Kiernan down the left, but his clipped effort was well blocked by the hosts' first-choice goalkeeper.

Three minutes later, Wilkinson had another effort from a free-kick from around 30 yards out, with his speculative effort this time just rising over the crossbar.

However, Taylor's side's telling pressure did eventually pay off just before the half an hour mark as they deservedly went in front.

This was when a sloppy pass by Dan Jones allowed Kiernan to get in behind down the right and despite having support ahead of him, he chose to go alone as he fired the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

The goal didn't seem to wake Clarke's outfit up though as their sloppy play in possession and lack of ideas continued to show.

They did have a couple of moments where they could've found a route back into the game, first through Ben Garrity who brought down a cross but from the right, but his snap-shot was sliced well over the bar.

Then in first-half stoppage time, Dennis Politic played through David Amoo on goal, but when reaching the edge of the area Manny Monthe did excellently to get back in time and make a well-timed recovery tackle.

Although at the start of the second period after having made a double change with Mal Benning and Devante Rodney entering the field, Vale came out with a lot more energy and purpose.

Their first meaningful opening of the half came on 56 minutes when a Tom Pett half volley was deflected wide of the right post, moments before Conlon whipped his free-kick off target.

On the 67th minute mark, with Vale's initial intensity having settled down, Miller had a spectacular effort with an overhead kick from just inside the area that floated narrowly wide of Covolan's right-hand post.

With only 18 minutes remaining the chances of coming away with a point though were hugely diminished when captain Conlon was dismissed for a second bookable offence after arriving late on Earing.

This incident did prove to be the defining moment as the hosts failed to provide the visitor's backline with any more food for thought as they managed the end of the game well and saw out an important three points.

Vale's lack of purpose factor for defeat                   

Ahead of the clash, the Valiants were sat third in the table and had only lost one of the last eight in all competitions which came last time out away from home to relegation-threatened Oldham Athletic.

However, this evening there is no doubt that they put in a display that was completely out of character as in the first half there was barely any intensity to their play with them allowing Walsall far too much of the ball.

Then even when they had the ball, the home side wasn’t effective with what they did with it which wasn’t helped by the lack of runs in behind from the likes of Amoo and Politic.

Even in the second half, despite coming out with a little more energy for the first ten minutes or so, it was nowhere near enough as their quality in the final third was poor as Monthe and Rollin Monayese were not stretched far often enough as they comfortably were able to deal with anything that was thrown their way.

It was a performance that was one that fans haven’t been too familiar with seeing so far this campaign and Clarke will be immediately looking to rectify it and put things right in four days time when they play host to Hartlepool United, who have lost each of the last four in the league.

Star Player- Manny Monthe

All of Walsall’s backline put in an impressive showing at Vale Park with them working well as a unit as the fact that Vale never really caused too many problems going forward has to be put down to both how compact they were as well as their consistent organisation.

However, Monthe stood out above the rest as his positional sense and ability to read and track forward runs was excellent with Amoo really being given limited space in behind Taylor’s defensive line.

Then when required to put his body on the line, he was not afraid to as he showed to be commanding in his own area and when crosses were delivered in late on, the 26-year old was strong in the air as he dealt with anything Vale tried to throw at him with relative ease.

The defender was at the centre of an ideal defensive performance by the Saddlers, as it is impressive in itself that they have come away from Vale Park, a place where the only other team to come there and win in the league so far this season being Rochdale, with a clean sheet.

This is their second consecutive one after drawing 0-0 at home to the Dale at the weekend and it will certainly be something that Taylor's outfit will be looking to build upon over the next couple of weeks.