Football: Robins routed by Vale

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The Independent Online
Altrincham. . .1

Port Vale . . .4

SO MUCH for the cult of the little man. Altrincham, those particularly dangerous FA Cup Lilliputians, were given a thorough going over yesterday at Moth Lane. Port Vale arrived with some degree of trepidation but left with four goals and a place in the third-round draw with the real giants. In truth, they could have scored far more.

Indeed it was a day where it was extremely difficult to discern the romance of the competition. The rain pelted down and the cold wind blew up over a pitch clogged with mud, but far worse was that the match was over as a real contest within 20 minutes.

Altrincham are arch-upsetters of their supposed betters having won 15 Cup matches over league opponents yet, on a surface that legend would have it should have been a great leveller, it was their skill that was nullified.

The Robins may be able to pass their way with the best in the GM Vauxhall Conference, but yesterday they looked every inch worthy of the gulf between themselves and their Second Division opponents. Route One was the only option but then every other path was blocked.

As a result Vale, who have now lost only once in the last 15 games, were superior from the start. Neutrals who had come to witness a surprise were soon speculating how many the visitors would score as Vale bypassed the home back four. By the time Vale finally beat the goalkeeper Joe Paladino in the 16th minute, Altrincham had barely been in the opposition half.

Three corners came in quick succession, the third beautifully curled from the right by John Jeffers, Vale's outstanding player. Peter Swan's header evaded Paladino's dive as the ball bounced over the line and the prospect of an upset went with it. Even more so four minutes later. Jeffers cut in from the left and hit a right-foot shot the goalkeeper could only push into the path of Martin Foyle. He slid the ball in for his fourth goal in three games.

After that the game floundered for the best part of an hour as Vale, showing the classic symptoms of workmen willing to do no more than the necessary to get a job done, sat back and allowed Altrincham a share of the ball they had never looked likely to achieve when it mattered.

Not that they did much with it and once the manager John Rudge's frequent appeals from the bench for more effort were heeded, Ian Taylor and Robin van der Laan added a further two goals with shots from 15 and 25 yards.

In between, Altrincham had drawn something from the game when Charlie Bradshaw went down the right and crossed for the substitute Carl Dyson to score from a yard. Paltry compensation from a day that had promised far more.

Altrincham: J Paladino; S Woodhead, C Freeman, P France, R Sidderley, M Ogley, S Saunders (M Hayde, 73 min), R Harris, C Bradshaw, M Carmody, S Rudge (C Dyson, 73 min). Manager: G Quinn.

Port Vale: P Musselwhite; S Mills, C Sulley, R Walker, P Swan, R Van der Laan, J Jeffers, A Porter, N Cross, M Foyle, I Taylor. Subs not used: P Kerr, K Houchen. Manager: J Rudge.

Referee: I Hendricks (Preston).

Goals: Swan (0-1, 16 min); Foyle (0-2, 20 min);Taylor (0-3, 79 min); Dyson (1-3, 82 min); van der Laan (1-4, 86 min).