Football: Tranmere succumb to Vale's snipers

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The Independent Online
Port Vale 2

Tranmere Rovers 0

The television age has been a long time coming to Burslem, but Port Vale yesterday marked the first League fixture to be covered live from Vale Park by toppling Tranmere by virtue of two contenders for Granada's Goal of the Season.

Although Vale's first victory in eight matches was not enough to lift them out of the First Division relegation zone, the quality of their passing game made nonsense of local speculation that their manager, John Rudge, was on borrowed time. Tranmere, whowould have moved into third place by winning, were ultimately relieved to avoid a heavy defeat.

In mitigation, Tranmere could point to the flu bug which laid several of their squad low last week Against that, Vale were so depleted that Rudge had to field two players, Allen Tankard and Ray Walker, who were not fully fit. As is the way of these things, Walker was hugely influential in midfield and Tankard scored his first League goal for the club.

It arrived in the 31st minute. Vale appeared to be going nowhere with a succession of close passes just outside the penalty area until Andy Porter laid the ball back to Tankard. Showing no sign of the hamstring injury that has prevented him playing for amonth, the left-back powered an angled drive high beyond Eric Nixon from 25 yards.

Tension seemed to drain out of the home side - who last won back on 26 November - and confidence flooded in. Martin Foyle, who stretched the Tranmere defence throughout with his intelligent running, was only inches wide with a low curling shot while Steve Guppy somehow missed from five yards after the unselfish Tony Naylor had cut the ball back.

John King, the Tranmere manager and an ex-Vale captain, said afterwards he could not wait to get his men in at half-time. But things went from bad to worse for the visitors after the interval, when only a combination of hasty finishing and Nixon's agility kept the score down The giant keeper was helpless, however, as Vale sealed their success with a goal to stir the most sedentary armchair fan shortly before the hour .

One moment they were defending a free-kick in their own box. The next, Naylor fastened on to a clearance and carried the ball over the half-way line before picking out Guppy who had raced forward in support. Seconds later the left-winger's precise cross was being met, 10 yards out, by a full blooded first-time volley from Foyle, whose 13th goal of the season tore past Nixon before he could react.

Port Vale (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Sandeman Aspin, Scott, Tankard; Porter, Walker, van der Laan, Guppy; Naylor Foyle. Substitutes not used: Allon, Kent, van Heusden (gk).

Tranmere Rovers (4-4-2): Nixon; Thomas, Higgins (Brannan 71), McGreal, Stevens; Morissey, O'Brien, Irons, Nevin; Malkin, Muir. Substitutes not used: Jones, Coyne (gk).

Referee: C Wilkes (Gloucester).