Vale have stopped the rot ahead of Mansfield Town trip

Neil Aspin
Neil Aspin

Port Vale look to have stopped the rot and steadied their Football League ship after almost suffering two successive relegations and dropping into non-League earlier this year.

Saturday’s visitors to Mansfield Town began this season aiming to improve on last season when they only stayed in the Football League by a single point.

Neil Aspin and his players are delivering that so far, moving the club up to mid-table and, before the Sunderland FA Cup defeat, were on a run of five games unbeaten.

There have been setbacks along the way, including last month’s 6-2 hammering at home to Lincoln City, an afternoon Aspin described as his worst of the season.

But a win at neighbours Crewe and an obvious improvement overall on last season have amounted to a solid first three months.

Aspin is doing a sound job. When he was appointed last October he inherited a team that had been relegated the previous season, had made an awful start in League Two and were in serious danger of slipping into non-League.

He kept Vale up last year and has assembled a stronger squad this time with the low budget signings of midfielder Manny Oyeleke, centre halves Connell Rawlinson and Leon Legge and midfielder Luke Hannant.

The Valiants rely heavily on 33-year-old target man Tom Pope, who is captain and top scorer this season with eight goals.

The local lad and Vale fan is a huge favourite at Vale Park.

Oyeleke looks like he could go on to play higher than League Two.

He’s a powerful presence in central midfield, capable of driving forward and beating his man.

He’s a ball winner and can pick a pass too - a genuine box-to-box midfielder.

Oyeleke has been out with a hamstring injury but returned to first-team action as a substitute in the 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland in the FA Cup on Sunday.

He may well come into the starting side on Saturday having been such an influential player since he arrived on a free transfer from Aldershot in the summer.

Versatile left back or left winger Cristian Montano also made his comeback from a knee injury in that Sunderland game.

Meanwhile, right back James Gibbons missed the cup game with a sickness bug but could be back in the squad.