Port Vale 4
Pope 55, 83
by CHRIS PARSONS
ARGYLE moved in the npower League 2 relegation zone for the first time this season after a heavy defeat to Port Vale at Vale Park.
After a fairly even exchange in the opening 3half-hour, Argyle went behind on 32 minutes to a Jennison Myrie-Williams effort from the edge of the box.
But it was what followed in the minutes afterwards that changed the game when, straight from the kick-off, a collision between Ashley Vincent and Nick Chadwick led to a straight red card for the latter.
The Pilgrims battled on to the break but after half-time, faced wave after wave of Vale attacks.
The division’s leading scorer, Tom Pope, scored twice either side of a Ben Williamson effort to condemn the Pilgrims to their third consecutive defeat.
For what is likely to be their only game in charge, caretakers Kevin Nancekivell and Romain Larrieu made just one change to the side beaten at Bristol Rovers on New Year’s Eve.
Looking to instil some passion and fight into the side, they turned to a man that they had both seen firsthand on the pitch themselves as Argyle players; Paul Wotton.
Making his first appearance since September, the living Pilgrims’ legend lined up in the hole between the defence and the midfield for his 463rd outing in the green shirt of his hometown club.
It did not take long for him to get involved either, floating a perfectly place free-kick on the head of Chadwick, whose cushioned touch found Conor Hourihane to nod into the arms on home ‘keeper Chris Neal.
Then, after a couple of dangerous Vale crosses had gone un-attacked at the other end, Chadwick let loose a half-volley with his back to goal that was well caught by Neal.
Despite their lofty league position, Port Vale had not won at home since November 20 and when Tom Pope sliced Myrie-Williams’ cut-back wide with the goal at his mercy, it was beginning to look like it could be the Pilgrims’ day.
But, just minutes later, came a few horrible minutes that would prove to undo the Pilgrims’ afternoon.
Firstly, on the half-hour mark, provider turned finisher when Myrie-Williams converted a deflected effort from the edge of the area.
A goal down? Relatively early in the match? That was manageable.
But when Chadwick clashed with Vincent as he ran through after the restart, the game took a further turn for the worse.
Vincent went down in a heap, the Port Vale bench leaped up in the air and after much deliberation, Chadwick was sent off.
With just over ten minutes of the half remaining, Argyle set about restructuring, moving Cowan-Hall up top on his own, with Luke Young on the right and whilst not creating any what one would call genuine goalscoring opportunities, they held their own in their opponents half with determination and vigour.
At the beginning of the second period, the home visit began to make their man advantage work, keeping possession camped in their visitors’ half. Knowing that at 1-0, they did not have to score, they stroked it around, inviting the already leggy Pilgrims to chase.
There were brief periods when the pressure was relieved; firstly when Nelson had his headed deflected away and then when Young thundered a half-volley wide of the post.
But, alas, they were soon back down to earth again when Pope rose above Blanchard to head home Vincent’s generous cross.
Then followed a glut of Port Vale domination in which Rene Gilmartin made two excellent saves, first from Williamson at point-blank range, and then from Loft from 30 yards.
Pope was the next to test the big Irishman and he too came up second best Gilmartin again denied the onslaught, this time with a superb diving save at the back post.
Try as they might, Port Vale just could not beat Gilmartin as he again saved fromPope before Williamson fired the deflection into the stands.
But he did not have to wait long for his goal as just seconds later, he slid the ball into the back of the net from close range.
And, as if three goals was not enough, with seven minutes to go, Pope made it four.
Port Vale (4-4-2): 1 Chris Neal; 2 Adam Yates, 17 Joe Davis, 25 Liam Chilvers, 3 Rob Taylor; 9 Jennison Myrie-Williams (26 Chris Birchall 79), 7 Doug Loft, 15 Chris Shuker, 10 Ashley Vincent (22 Ryan Lloyd 82); 11 Tom Pope, 19 Ben Williamson (16 Calvin Andrew 84). Substitutes (not used): 8 Louis Dodds, 14 Clayton McDonald, 23 Ryan Burge, 24 Richard Duffy.
Argyle (4-5-1): 20 Rene Gilmartin; 2 Durrell Berry, 17 Curtis Nelson, 4 Maxime Blanchard, 3 Robbie Williams; 7 Paris Cowan-Hall, 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 15 Paul Wotton (16 Jamie Lowry 75), 8 Luke Young (11 Warren Feeney 67), 14 Onismor Bhasera; 9 Nick Chadwick. Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole (gk), 10 Rhys Griffiths, 21 Matt Lecointe, 23 Jamie Richards, 27 Andres Gurrieri.
Booked: Young 18
Sent-off: Chadwick 34
Referee: Scott Mathieson
Attendance: 5,168 (334 away)