Like too many others in the Nationwide League, Albion are a club with a stadium worthy of the Premiership but a team struggling for an identity. After one win in nine matches, Buckley's side look much more likely to be entertaining Second Division opposition next season. The manager, whose 25 months at the Hawthorns almost qualify him for a long-service award, locked his players in the dressing-room after yesterday's fortuitous draw for a dressing down. Cynics might say it was a device for avoiding flak himself, with the supporters beginning to voice their frustrations.
Not that Rudge is without first-hand experience of managerial stress: recently, it was the fate of the club, rather than his own job, that occupied his mind as chairman Bill Bell threatened to close Vale Park in the face of abuse from the terraces.
However, Rudge appeared considerably less careworn than his counterpart yesterday after watching Vale largely outplay their opponents only to shoot themselves in the foot by presenting a gift equaliser to the home side.
Having weathered Albion's energetic early attacks, Vale took the lead in the 16th minute with a decisive counter-thrust. Tony Naylor's intelligent pass released Jon McCarthy into space on the right and the right winger delivered a well-judged diagonal pass which Steve Guppy, arriving at the far post, slid past goalkeeper Paul Crichton and into the net off the opposite upright.
This was the signal for Vale, for whom the Swedish international midfielder Jan Jansson made an eye-catching debut, to claim the initiative. But they threw Albion a lifeline with a hideous mix-up ten minutes before half- time in which the goalkeeper Paul Musselwhite's grip on a cross was dislodged in a collision with Dean Glover, and Bob Taylor nipped in for a gift equaliser.
Thereafter Albion were hardly involved as an attacking force while Vale were unhurried in defence and imaginative in attack.Albion were forced to defend in numbers and only Crichton's goalkeeping saved the home side the discomfort of another defeat, pulling off fine saves to deny first McCarthy and then Stuart Talbot.