Preview: Port Vale vs Exeter City

City moved into second place in the table on Saturday with a 2-0 win at struggling Oldham, but it came at a price with Matt Taylor reduced to just one fit central midfielder ahead of the tough trip to Port Vale on Tuesday night. Having already lost goalscorer Kyle Taylor and Tim Dieng to injury, the last thing Taylor needed was for Nigel Atangana to get himself sent off. Worse, the French midfielder’s challenge was deemed a straight red rather than a second yellow, so Atangana is set to miss three matches. With Harry Kite also missing that leaves just Archie Collins from the first team squad fit and available on Tuesday, with Taylor hinting at possibly recalling players from loan spells – James Dodd would be the most likely to return, while Taylor could consider dropping skipper Matt Jay into midfield with one of Josh Coley, Offrande Zanzala or Padraig Amond coming in further up the pitch.

Port Vale looked to have fallen away from a promotion challenge after a poor spell as well as nearly a month without a game due to Covid issues (including the postponement of this fixture in December), but recent form has picked up despite the absence of manager Darrell Clarke for personal reasons. Their 2-1 win at Bradford on Saturday was their third in a row, while they’ve lost just once since mid-January, although they’ve probably drawn more than they would have liked during that run, with six wins and six draws registered. Clarke was very active in the January window with a number of new faces and departures. One of the new signings was Kian Harratt on loan from Huddersfield, and Kieran Phillips’ team mate has three goals so far, but the main goal threat is likely to come from either Ben Garrity with 11 or former Manchester United striker James Wilson, whose goal at Bradford put him into double figures in all competitions. One player hoping to feature will be Aaron Martin, surprisingly released by City in 2020, although he was missing from the matchday squad at Bradford.

Even though the season is drawing to a close this is the first meeting between the sides this season thanks to the aforementioned postponement in December. City’s last visit to Vale Park wasn’t a very good Friday, Theo Robinson’s early goal condemning City to a 1-0 defeat. That completed the double for the Valiants, who’d won 2-0 at the Park through Conlon and Rodney. Those wins extended Port Vale’s league head to head lead to 23-18, with 11 matches finishing level.

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