Vale let lead slip and drop a place in the table
New Vale boss Neil Aspin saw first-hand the size of the task ahead of him when, despite a decent Port Vale performance, his side let a lead slip and dropped all three points against Grimsby Town.
The defeat, coupled with a point gained away from home against leaders Notts County by Forest Green Rovers saw the Valiants slip a place in the League Two table with only Chesterfield in a worse position.
Vale took the lead six minutes before the interval when Tom Pope turned sharply inside the box to fire home, but the celebrations were put on the back burner when Sam Jones and Siriki Dembele hit second half goals the earn the Mariners the points.
There is no doubt that the Vale players had been lacking in confidence in recent weeks, but it certainly wasn’t showing during the opening exchanges of the game.
The players, buoyed no doubt by an upbeat home crowd who lifted the noise levels by a couple of decibels, began the game belying their position in the league and looking like there had never been any problems with their belief.
With a quarter of an hour gone, Ben Whitfield took advantage of a misplaced pass to intercept, then run at the visitors’ defence before trying his luck from the edge of the box.
With hindsight he would probably have taken the other option and played the ball to his right to Tom Pope, who was completely unmarked and who would arguably have had a better chance of beating the ‘keeper.
Whitfield, followed by Pope and then Whitfield again, each went close to opening the scoring and the feeling was the it was only a matter of time before the home side nudged themselves ahead.
Roos had to stay on his toes and was forced to make a couple of saves from long distance. But he handled well in those rare instances when the visitors tested the home side.
In the 39th minute Vale finally got the lead their approach play deserved, and what better man to get it than home grown Tom Pope?
Pope is Vale through and through, and it was he who swivelled inside the box to fire home from close range to send the home support into raptures.
“Feed the Pope and he will score” has not been heard much in Burslem so far this season, but it was sung with passion after the striker met a left wing cross from the left to fire home the opening goal.
Vale went into the break holding a slender lead but were unable to hold on to it, with the visitors deservedly levelling just six minutes into the second half.
Grimsby started the second forty-five of the front foot and in the 51st minute won a corner kick, which was taken from the right, allowing Sam Jones to meet the ball at the front post and steer his header wide of Kelle Roos for the equaliser.
Goalkeeper Kelle Roos earned his corn in the 63rd minute when he reacted sharply to keep out winger Siriki Dembele, diving to his left to produce an excellent save.
The home supporters were forced to endure one or two scares before the visitors got their second goal when Dembele forced his way into the box, rounded the ‘keeper and tapped the ball home to put the visitors in front.