Last night, I took my first of two journeys to Stoke On-Trent this week, when I visited Vale Park to watch Port Vale in their second group match of the Checkatrade Trophy campaign against Middlesbrough U21’s. The home side won their first match last Tuesday night against League 1 side, Burton Albion with Ricky Miller coming off the bench to net the only goal of the game. The good result was followed up by an embarrassing home defeat to table toppers, Lincoln City on Saturday, when the Valiants were hammered 2-6. Manager, Neil Aspin was understandably embarrassed by Saturdays result and was looking for a response from his side. Despite fielding an U23 team in the Premier League, it is the Middlesbrough U21 side who play in this competition. They started their campaign with a 3-1 defeat away to Walsall, extending their winless run to three games after losing to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United in the U23 Premier League.
The Checkatrade Trophy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, which I understand. However, I love competitions like this as it allows the groundhoppers, like myself to get to more grounds and try reach my target of all 92 EFL grounds.
As expected, Neil Aspin made 6 changes from Saturdays home defeat to Lincoln with Goalkeeper Scott Brown being replaced by Sam Hornby while Leon Legge, Luke Hannant, Danny Pugh, Ben Whitfield and Idris Kanu also all dropped out, being replaced by James Gibbons, Luke Joyce, Louis Dodds, Lewis Hardcastle and Ricky Miller.
Middlesbrough made 4 changes from their 3-1 defeat to Walsall last Tuesday with Boro also changing their goalkeeper, with Zach Hemming coming in. Harry Chapman, Nick Hood and Lewis Wing dropped out and in came Kian Spence, Jack Robinson and Nathan Guru.
The game got underway in Burslem and it was a fast and furious start by the hosts. They sent a warning to Boro after 4 minutes when a dangerous free kick from Tom Conlon caused havoc in the box but was eventually cleared. Two minutes later, Vale were ahead. Middlesbrough shot their selves in the foot when, Ben Liddle passed the ball back without noticing Conlon sneaking up behind him before Conlon took the loose ball, beat the defender and set it up on a plate for Ricky Miller. The striker made no mistake as he slotted it past Zach Hemming into the left hand corner to put the Valiant’s ahead. Vale kept up the huge amount of pressure on the young Middlesbrough side as the Burslem side nearly doubled their lead on the 11th minute. Some nice interplay between Tom Conlon and goal scorer, Miller led to Lewis Hardcastle getting a volley on the edge of the box, which just flew over the bar. On the 16th minute, A Tom Conlon free kick caused a huge goal-mouth scramble, which led to keeper Zach Hemming just about managing to get on top of the ball before Ricky Miller stabbed home his and Vale’s second goal. The North Yorkshire side were really struggling to contain Port Vale, and after 28 minutes, A corner from the hosts was cleared but only straight to Luke Joyce, who picked out Centre-Back, Connell Rawlinson at the back post. The defender volleyed at goal but it was saved well by the Boro keeper. The chances continued to keep coming for the hosts. On the 33th minute Theo Vassell was inches away from making it 2-0, when he rose highest from a deep, Tom Conlon corner, but his effort just scraped wide of the post. The final chance of a dominant Vale half, came on the 41st minute when Tom Conlon let fly from outside the box which was tipped over by the very busy, Zach Hemming.
Half Time- Port Vale 1-0 Middlesbrough U21
The home side started the same as the first half, completely dominant. After 49 minutes. A short free-kick was played to Luke Joyce, who dinked it to Theo Vassell who was free at the back post, but the left-back couldn’t keep his volley down. The next chance came after 58 minutes when Tom Conlon almost scored direct from a corner, but Hemming managed to get a glove on it. The Valiants did finally get their well deserved second goal after 65 minutes when once again Conlon delivered a fantastic ball into the box, and it met the head of Connell Rawlinson, who powered his header home. It took Middlesbrough 75 minutes to have their first sight at goal when, Djed Spence fired a shot wide from far out. The game by this point was dead, but Vale remained professional and got the job done against a really poor Middlesborough side who registered 1 shot on target throughout the whole match, which came on one of the last kicks of the ball when, Dan Ward had a shot at goal which was easily collected by Sam Hornby.
It was a completely dominant performamce by the League 2 side as it finished, Port Vale 2-0 Middlesbrough U21, sending the Valiants through to round 2 of the Checkatrade Trophy, with 1 game to spare, while knocking the young Boro side out.
Port Vale XI
Hornby, Gibbons(46), Rawlinson(81), Smith, Vassell, Clark, Joyce, Conlon, Hardcastle(64), Dodds, Miller
Subs- Brown, Daniels, Kanu, Kay(81), Pugh(46), Whitfield, Worrall(64)
Middlesbrough U21 XI
Hemming, Dodds, Stubbs, Guru, Robinson, Liddle(90), K Spence, Ward, D Spence, Malley(76), O’Neill
Subs- James, Hood, McGill, Stephenson(76), Watts(90), Wilson
Referee- Matthew Donohue
Assistants- Christopher Ward & Kevin Morris
Fourth Official- Scott Oldham
Attendance 554 (18 Middlesbrough U21 Fans)
Goals- Miller(6), Rawlinson(65)
Yellow Cards- Pugh(59), O’Neill(60), Stephenson(90)
Red Cards- 0