It may have been the archetypal game of two halves, but City’s thrashing by Luton on Tuesday night will not have been good for City’s confidence heading into a match against a side seemingly enjoying a new manager bounce. Paul Tisdale’s main concern remains in defence where injuries to both of his left-sided centre backs forced him to play Dean Moxey out of position against Luton – Luke Croll is still said to be some weeks away from a return but skipper Jordan Moore-Taylor could be fit to come back in on Saturday. Ryan Harley was back on the bench on Tuesday but will likely remain there as Tisdale is set to continue with Tillson and James as his central midfield pairing.
Having been relegated last season amidst rumours of all not being particularly good behind the scenes, the bookies weren’t particularly confident of a return, and Vale’s start to the season did little to suggest the bookies were wrong. Former Man City midfielder Michael Brown, whose caretaker spell was converted to a permanent deal in the summer despite relegation, paid the price with his job. The Valiants turned to a “club legend” in Neil Aspin, luring him away from Gateshead. Defeat against Grimsby in his first match was followed up with two victories against Cheltenham and against fellow strugglers Morecambe on Tuesday night, although wins for Chesterfield and Forest Green meant they are still just two points clear of the drop zone. Aspin was a no-nonsense defender, and this style has carried him through his managerial career to date so City can expect a fairly tight game (that said, Vale have scored seven goals in his three games so far). Key will be stopping Tom Pope, who was lethal with Vale when they were at this level previously – he has six goals to his name so far this season.
The last meeting between the sides was in the FA Cup 2nd round, where a patched up City side emerged victorious 2-0 against their League One opponents (Tillson, Watkins) to book a 3rd round tie with Liverpool. The last league encounters were in Vale’s 12/13 promotion season, where both matches finished 2-0 to the visitors. The corresponding match saw Vale win through a Pope double, before City exacted revenge with goals from Cureton and Coles, holding on despite Mark Molesley’s red card. Port Vale have the slight edge in league head to heads with 19 wins to City’s 15 (10 draws).
Referee: Craig Hicks
Assistant Referee: Kevin Morris and Simon Knapp
Fourth Official: Adrian Tranter
This will be Craig’s second visit to the park, the first being back in August when he refereed his first Exeter game against Lincoln. Details at http://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?sp_event=exeter-city-vs-lincoln-city-5