Port Vale 1-1 Forest Green Rovers: Stevens' late strike secures point at Vale park
BURSLEM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Ryan Edmondson of Port Vale celebrates after he scores their first goal during the Sky Bet League Two match between Port Vale and Forest Green Rovers at Vale Park on February 01, 2022 in Burslem, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Matty Stevens' 17th goal of the season helped Forest Green Rovers share the spoils at Vale Park against play-off chasing Port Vale.

Vale broke the deadlock inside 12 minutes through a Ryan Edmondson header, which was his first goal for the club after joining on loan from Leeds United in January.

Even though Darrell Clarke's side were defensively well set up and solid for the whole game, an 81st minute Stevens tap in saw Rovers go home with a point, moving them eight points clear at the top.

A spirited performance by Vale sees them remain in ninth, still three points adrift of the play-off places.

Story of the game

The Valiants, who made two changes from the victory over Scunthorpe United at the weekend, started brightly and tested Rovers goalkeeper Luke McGee inside only two minutes.

Edmondson broke down the left and cut inside his man, but his drive was well parried to safety by the former Tottenham Hotspur academy graduate.

This seemed to provide Vale with confidence  as they started off on the front foot and saw their pressure pay off ten minutes later when a Chris Hussey corner from the right was flicked home at the near post by Edmondson, sealing his first goal for the club.

With Forest Green not being able to get out of their shell, on 21 minutes McGee was forced into another good stop, this time from James Wilson whose strike from range was turned behind by the visiting number one.

From the resulting corner, McGee was close to turning into a villain as he fumbled the set piece, but Aaron Martin from close range couldn't capitalise as he poked the ball over the crossbar.

After the break, the away side came out much improved and gave Tomas Holy something to think about on the 48th minute mark when Matty Stevens was slipped through down the left, but his effort was turned away by the Ipswich Town loan goalkeeper.

Jamille Matt will have felt he should have done much better when he got on the end of a corner from the right, but his header was powered wide of the mark.

However, despite creating very clear cut opportunities throughout the entirety of the game, Rob Edwards' side did snatch a point when a corner from the left was flicked on into the path of a free Stevens, who from point blank range turned the ball home to help secure a vital point for the away side.

Valiants spirted performance signs of encouragement despite absentees

Going into the game, the home side were considered underdogs with the injuries they are having to currently deal with as the likes of Tom ConlonJames Gibbons and potent finisher Jamie Proctor still remaining out.

Then with them coming up against a superior opposition who had won three of the last four and hadn’t lost away in the league all season, it was always going to be a tough task.

However, Clarke’s side for the whole 90 minutes worked hard, chasing down every loose ball with them at times just missing that extra quality in the final third.

Although they should be credited with how they frustrated Rovers for a large proportion of the game as they went on to create very little and this is down to the good tracking of Brad Walker and the sturdiness and composure of Vale’s back three.

The overall showing from the home side must be seen as a positive though despite the result and should be one that should be used as a model as the Valiants push for a place in the top seven.

Star Man- Nathan Smith

In a solid defensive performance, Smith nullified the physical presence of Matt very well with it being rare that he loses out to an aerial battle.

The 25-year old also didn’t often get beat when being taken on and didn’t allow the two forwards to slip in behind him as he remained defensively well positioned throughout the encounter.

Smith has become a regular member of the Valaints starting 11 once again this season with him having played 30 games already this season and in that time he has netted two goals.