Vale maintain dreadful record on Jersey soil and it's back into retirement for boss
Trinity 1, Vale Rec 0 YET another chapter has been written in that bulging book entitled 'Vale Rec's Upton failures'.
Trinity 1, Vale Rec 0
YET another chapter has been written in that bulging book entitled 'Vale Rec's Upton failures'. At Springfield on Saturday, the surprise Priaulx League champions lost the Channel Islands championship play-off for the eighth time in nine attempts and for the 11th time in 15 attempts all told. Vale have now lost five out of five Uptons in Jersey since 1981.
This latest defeat, against Upton new boys Trinity, was a hopeless failure in one respect - the goal that ruined Vale's dreams was surely one of the softest ever conceded at this level.
But ultimately, if one was to rank Vale's Upton disasters in terms of the most heroic first, 2003 would be at or very near the top of the list.
Despite missing four key offensive players, including Tristram Morgan, arguably the Channel Islands' best player and undoubtedly the inspiration behind his club's unexpected league win, Vale came mighty close to pulling off one of the biggest shocks in Upton history.
Definite underdogs before kick-off, the green-and-yellows' workmanlike and disciplined performance was really not in the same category of the catalogue of Upton abortions that has littered the champions' otherwise glorious history.
Vale's young, patched-up side was not overawed by the occasion.
Indeed, they were the better side for most of the game and few Trinity supporters would have been too disgruntled with a draw and a replay.
Alas, naivety at both ends of the beautifully-manicured pitch cost Vale the biggest prize in CI club football.
They squandered three good chances to open the scoring in the opening half-an-hour.
And then, with two minutes of the first half remaining, were caught napping as Trinity scored from only their second meaningful attack of the game.
Right-back Alan Brown, another dubious choice in the inglorious history of inter-insular man-of-the-match decisions, received the ball 10 yards inside the Vale half and only a yard or two in from the right touchline. It was an inocuous position, or at least it should have been.
Two Vale players, Dave Woodhead and Matt Patch, made half-hearted attempts to close down Brown, but neither completed the job and suddenly the young full-back had a chance to knock the ball into the penalty area.
He delivered a reasonable cross, but it shouldn't have led to the only goal. And it wouldn't have had Trinity's midfield pocket dynamo Peter Edwards not been allowed to run loose and ghost in at the far post to plant a delicate reverse header inside Jody Bisson's left-hand post.
Vale's stand-in manager Chris Hamon was livid with those who hadn't done their jobs out wide.
His passionate remonstrating with Woodhead and Patch was more than just frustration; he experienced enough Upton misery as a player to recognise that big matches turn on such incidents.
Hamon admitted after the final whistle that he was particularly infuriated to concede late in the first period after his contain-and-break strategy had worked so well up to that point.
Trinity boss Joe Morley alleged after leading his side to victory that Vale employed negative tactics aimed solely at suffocating his team's close-passing style.
The visitors, who started in a 4-4-2 formation but switched to 3-5-2 early on, were certainly tight and cautious and accusations of long-ball football were not entirely unfounded, but the art of good football is playing to your strengths and in that respect Vale were the more effective team.
Many in the strong contingent of Guernsey fans feared for Vale at the kick-off.
The absence of Morgan, Matt Falla, Craig Tyrrell et al could have led to an embarrassing afternoon.
But hope soared in the first 40 minutes.
While Trinity were unable to impose themselves early on, Vale enjoyed bags of possession in the opposition half and worked several fine moves in and around the penalty area.
In the sixth minute, a long Jon Eley free-kick found Patch, who had drifted behind a static defensive line, and the midfielder looked odds-on to score at the Oxford Road end.
But when he needed a little composure to slot the ball past goalkeeper Carlos Ribelo, Patch ambitiously tried to lob him and thus squandered a good chance.
That was, however, by no means the best chance to score before Trinity got one at the other end.
Tony Manning drove over from 18 yards in the eighth minute as Vale built on their bright start.
Brent Blondel, son of absent manager Ray, was a fag paper away from scoring on 18 minutes. Quick-thinking Danny Bisson speedily took a throw-in deep in Trinity's half and released the unmarked Blondel. Having superbly pulled away from his marker, Blondel found a yard of space and rocketed a half-volley towards the top corner, only to watch the ball skim the top of the bar and land on the roof of the netting.
Woodhead was a surprise choice to start ahead of Gavin Bougourd and Jamie Blondel on the left of midfield, but he confounded his critics with an excellent first-half, save for the failure to close down Brown at the end of it.
From an attacking perspective, Woodhead was one of Vale's most dangerous players, whipping down the touchline several fine balls to the lightening-fast Danny Bisson. That was the pass that looked most likely to pull Trinity apart.
Bisson played the other channel with success in the 26th minute. He burst into the box after a strong run down the right; bearing down on goal, he looked almost certain to score.
His powerful shot was saved at the near post, but Bisson, Vale's leading goalscorer and a front runner to start in next Monday's Muratti, should have done better.
Trinity's one half-decent move before their goal ended with David Le Roux firing a fraction over the crossbar from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Hamon's half-time pep talk, in view of the events that had unfolded a couple of minutes beforehand, probably ripped most of the paint off the away team's dressing-room walls.
But whatever he said, it had the desired effect at the start of the second half.
Vale didn't fall into the doldrums after the goal; instead they regained the baton of superiority.
Trinity's Paul Crompton brought a fine block out of Jody Bisson in the 50th minute, but Vale then had two good chances in the space of three minutes.
Danny Bisson wriggled free of his marker 12 yards out, but with only the goalkeeper to beat he scuffed his shot and Ribelo gathered comfortably.
Vale fans were off their seats and about to punch the air in celebration again when their team's next move ended in Danny Bisson knocking a superb ball across the face of goal towards the unmarked Blondel at the far post.
Valeites watched in agony as Blondel failed by no more than an inch to connect with the ball and tap it into an open goal.
Eley cleared a weak shot off the line in the 62nd minute and the hard-working, ever-lively Patch came close to equalising moments later as the game opened up.
Crompton should have made it 2-0 in the 66th minute. He beat Vale's offside trap and found himself one-on-one with Jody Bisson, but the undisputed island number one got down sharply to make a tremendous block and keep alive his side's interest in the match.
Possession and half-chances were shared equally in the final 20 minutes as Trinity worked hard to preserve their slender lead and Vale found it impossible to generate that one moment of inspiration that would have set-up only the third replay in the Upton's 96-year history.
Vale are yet to prove that their apparent resurgence is more than temporary, as it proved when they last won the league in 1993, but don't bet against them coming back and rewriting their dreadful Upton record in the years that lie ahead.
Hamon summed up the mood in the Vale camp. 'We're proud of our performance because we lost the right way.
'I'm sure this group of players will be back at this level very soon,' he added, before departing the managerial scene once again and declaring: 'It's back to retirement and a new pipe and a pair of slippers for me'.
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