Port Vale 1-0 Scunthorpe United: Nathan Smith's close range strike ends Vale's five game winless run
BURSLEM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: Ryan Edmondson celebrates after Nathan Smith of Port Vale scores their first goal during the Sky Bet League Two match between Port Vale and Scunthorpe United at Vale Park on January 29, 2022 in Burslem, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Port Vale put their five game winless run to an end with a scrappy 1-0 win at home to struggling Scunthorpe United.

Captain for the day Nathan Smith marked the occasion with the only goal of the game on the 73rd minute as a dominant display saw Vale rewarded with a deserved three points.

The result moves the Valiants only three points adrift of the play-off places with a game in hand on the teams above them, while Scunthorpe have slipped to the root of the table following a sixth successive defeat.

Story of the game

Going into the game Vale made three changes from their draw last weekend at Leyton Orient with Darrell Clarke having switched systems to a 3-4-3 and despite having a quiet start to things, his side were so close to breaking the deadlock just before the 20 minute mark.

A low driven corner by Chris Hussey was met by Huddersfield Town loanee Kian Harratt whose first time strike rebounded off the post before the follow up by Nathan Smith was somehow kept out from close range by Rory Watson.

Seven minutes later with the Irons having rarely threatened the Valiants back three up to that point, they would feel that they should have gone ahead themselves when captain George Taft's free header from a corner landed just the wrong side of the post.

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After that the home side were starting  to dominate the play but tended to be sloppy when it came to entering the final third.

However, Watson was called into action again on the 38th minute mark when he did well to block David Worrall's effort at the back post after he was found by a Hussey whipped cross from the left.

After the break Vale continued to be on the front foot without really being able to break down Keith Hill's backline but again had a golden chance to go in front on the hour mark, this time through Wilson.

Connor Hall played a great ball down the left to Hussey whose floated cross was latched on to by James Wilson, but his glancing header sailed narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

With the game being all dominated by Vale, they just couldn't seem to find the finishing touch as seven minutes later a Wilson delivery from the right was met by Harratt, but his header was diverted over the crossbar.

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Although, Clarke's outfit did get what they ultimately deserved with 17 minutes remaining when a Worrall corner from the right flashed across the area and on hand at the back post was Smith to bundle the ball home.

With nine minutes to go, the hosts could have even extended their advantage when substitute Ryan Edmondson fed Wilson, but his effort from outside the area was tame and easily held by Watson.

The visitors did have a late chance to snatch a point when Tyrese Sinclair was slipped through inside the box, but his low effort was tame and comfortably held by debutant Tomas Holy as Vale did enough to earn a first victory since the December 7th.

Change of system saw lack of clear cut chances

With Tom Pett being dropped to the bench and club captain Tom Conlon remaining absent with an achilles injury, Clarke decided to change from his familiar 3-5-2 formation to utilise a 3-4-3 system with David Amoo being added to the the attack.

However, with the lack of creativity presences in the midfield area, there was a lack of service to the likes of Harratt and Wilson who particularly in the first half struggled to get a hold of the game in dangerous positions.

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Then when the Valiants made a double change with just over 20 minutes to go in which they reverted back to the 3-5-2, with an extra midfielder in new signing Harry Charsley, they looked far more dangerous and creative in possession.

This certainly benefitted Wilson who was far more effective in that period especially when he drifted in from the right hand side.

The improved performance of Vale when they switched back to a formation that they have used for most of the season is an indication that this best suits the players currently in the squad and that it should continue to be used consistently for the remainder of the campaign.

Star Player- Chris Hussey

The left-back who joined Vale from League One outfit Cheltenham Town earlier on in the month was a constant threat down the left-hand side in the wing-back role and he was the main source of the Valiants effective attacks.

The 33-year old consistently delivered good balls into the box that caused problems for Scunthorpe's backline and when tracking back, he was defensively solid as it was rare that he allowed much room down the right for Liam Feeney.

Hussey played in his fourth game for Vale this afternoon and following the hamstring injury suffered by James Gibbons last weekend, the former Sheffield United will be keen to stamp his authority as a regular member of Clarke's starting 11.