Port Vale preview

Newport County AFC will be looking for their first victory in eight matches across all competitions when they head to Stoke-On-Trent to face Port Vale on Saturday. The Valiants will themselves be looking to secure a first win since 30th December 2017, while both teams will be searching for a first win against each other in over 30 years following a draw in the previous meeting this season at Rodney Parade.

Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League 2 fixture.


Last six league matches

Port Vale are one of very few sides in League 2 to have not yet secured themselves a victory in 2018.

That means they have picked up just three points out of the last 18 available, having drawn three and lost three of their last six league matches.

That run starts with a battling 1-1 draw against Yeovil at Vale Park. Francois Zoko scored early on to give the Glovers a lead in Stoke-On-Trent, only for Port Vale talisman Tom Pope to keep his cool with a late penalty and rescue a point.

In their next match, however, they suffered a morale sapping 3-2 defeat to Accrington Stanley.

Goals from Pope and Michael Tonge seemingly put the away side in cruise control in Lancashire before half-time, only for the promotion chasers to pull off an unlikely comeback in the second-half.

Sean McConville scored twice either side of a goal from Billy Kee to secure the victory for Stanley, yet in their next match it was Vale to show their comeback credentials.

The Valiants twice came from behind courtesy of Dave Worrall to earn a well-deserved draw with Colchester at Vale Park.

Courtney Senior and Drey Wright had both given the U’s a lead during the contest, only for Worrall to cancel out the goals on the two occasions for a share of the points.

That was then followed by another home draw, this one a goalless stalemate with Morecambe.

The lack of goals in that game were certainly made up for in their next match, however, although Vale were on the wrong end of a 5-1 defeat to Cheltenham Town.

It was the battle of the two strikers at the LCI Rail Stadium, as Mo Eisa took his tally to 17 goals for the season with a hat-trick for the Robins.

Pope took his own tally to 16 goals by finding the equaliser for Vale in the first-half, as further goals from Elijah Adebayo and Will Boyle gave Cheltenham a comfortable victory.  

In their most recent match, they again suffered an away defeat, this time a 3-2 reverse to play-off chasing Swindon Town.

Tonge scored early to give Vale the lead at the County Ground, but a double from ex-Vale striker Marc Richards turned the game completely on its head.

Cristian Montano marked his return to the side with an equaliser before half-time, although Paul Mullin struck two minutes from time to put Port Vale in 19th position in the League 2 table ahead of County’s visit to Vale Park.

Interestingly, despite being on an apparent poor run of form lately, the Valiants haven’t actually suffered a home league defeat in over two months.

Mansfield Town won 4-0 on the 21st November in what was a comfortable victory on a Tuesday night for the Stags, with Vale’s home form the main reason as to why they are seven points clear of the drop zone with 13 matches to play.




The Valiants have a couple of injury concerns ahead of our trip to Vale Park on Saturday.

Marcus Harness, David Worrall and Tyrone Barnett were all withdrawn at Swindon on the weekend, with their availability in doubt for the game.

Manager Neil Aspin said after the Swindon defeat: “Today we conceded a late goal and we also picked up three injuries, so everything is going against us, but we have got to keep going and make sure that it turns.”

They join Kjell Knops (knee) and Adam Yates (facial injury) as potential absentees.

Defender Anthony Kay will finish his two-game ban having accrued 10 yellow cards in the league, while Luke Hannant has now fully recovered from his foot problem.

First-team players Chris Regis, Ben Whitfield and Anton Forrester all played in the reserves’ 4-2 defeat to Morecambe on Tuesday, so may have persuaded Aspin to restore them to the first-team fold.

For that Swindon game last weekend, Aspin made four changes to the side that suffered a heavy defeat to Cheltenham Town. And he may have to make a similar amount of changes this time out due to the injury list within his squad.

Port Vale team vs Swindon Town (4-4-2): Boot, Montano, Howkins, Smith, Gibbons, Hannant, Tonge, Pugh, Harness (Barnett 27’) (Wilson 83’), Worrall (Davis 45’), Pope (C)


One to Watch – Michael Tonge


The vastly experienced 34-year old has provided a steady head in the Port Vale midfield following his free transfer move to the Stoke-On-Trent side this summer.

He has made 27 appearances for the Valiants so far this season, while also returning four goals.

Somewhat surprisingly, all of those goals have come on the road, with his name only being on the scoresheet for a win on just one occasion.

That came in an opening day debut victory at Crawley Town, while also finding the net in a Carabao Cup defeat to former side Leeds United, as-well as in League 2 at Accrington Stanley and Swindon Town.

The Valiants are the tenth club of Tonge’s career that has spanned 17 years to date, starting in the youth ranks at his hometown team Manchester United.

He moved to Sheffield United in 2001 and soon became a vital player for Neil Warnock's "Blades", being named as part of the First Division's PFA Team of the Year in 2003.

Tonge was a pivotal part of their promotion to the Premier League in 2006, playing in 27 matches of Sheffield United’s solitary campaign in the top-flight.

A final season in the Championship with the Blades saw him move to Stoke City in August 2008 for £2 million having made 302 appearances with Sheffield United.

He struggled to break into the first team at Stoke, however, and was sent out on loan to Championship teams Preston North End (twice), Derby County, Barnsley and Leeds United.

That saw Tonge move permanently to Leeds in January 2013, but he didn’t quite fit into the plans of successive managers Neil Redfearn and Darko Milanic so was sent out on loan again.

Millwall were his destination this time and upon his release from Leeds United, Tonge moved to Stevenage.

He spent the last two campaigns with the League 2 outfit before the move to Port Vale this summer.

Tonge has also been capped at both England U20 and U21 levels, all this meaning he has made over 500 professional career appearances to date and has scored over 30 goals.


Stadium – Vale Park


It has been nearly 31 years since the Exiles last made the trip to Vale Park for a Football League fixture.

And the Exiles certainly won’t want a repeat of the scoreline from the last visit to Stoke-On-Trent as the Valiants won 6-1 on 4th May 1987. Andy Jones scored five for the home side including two penalties, in addition to a goal from Phil Sproson.

Paul Compton gave the Exiles a consolation during the game which was played out in-front of 2,733 spectators.

In the modern day, Vale Park is currently the second biggest League 2 stadium with an official capacity of 19,052. It also contains one of the widest pitches in the Football League.

Port Vale have played at the stadium since 1950 and the capacity of the ground has certainly fluctuated in the intermittent period.

The record attendance stands at 49,768 for an FA Cup fixture with Aston Villa, a game they lost 2-1.

It has also been used as a multi-purpose stadium. The Stoke Spitfires (American Football) shared the ground for some games in 1985, while concerts including Motorhead have also been held at Vale Park.

On Saturday, away supporters will be housed in the Hamil Road stand behind one of the goals. A total of 4,500 people could be accommodated in the all-seater stand.


Last time out


Newport County AFC 1 – 1 Port Vale

Friday 10th November 2017

Matty Dolan scored his first goal for Newport County AFC as the Exiles were held to a 1-1 draw by Port Vale at Rodney Parade.

Both goals during the contest came after a relatively low-key first-half.

Only one chance was created between the two sides in the opening 45 minutes, as Shawn McCoulsky saw a header from Dolan’s corner acrobatically cleared off the goal line by Tyler Denton.

Valiants striker and League 2 player of the month for October, Tom Pope, was providing the greatest resistance for the away side in the first-half, although failed to hit the target with the three chances that fell his way.  

Despite not having a shot on goal during that first-half, the Valiants came agonisingly close to an opener just three minutes after the restart.

Pope headed an inviting Dave Worrall free-kick back across the goal; and just as Tom Anderson looked like he may net the opener, referee John Busby blew his whistle to stop the chance.

And not long after that, the Exiles had the lead themselves as Dolan found the net on 53 minutes.

It was the product of a mesmerising run from Robbie Willmott, who perfectly split both the midfield and the defence, before setting the ball up for Dolan, who rifled the ball almost through the goalkeeper and into the middle of the net from just inside the area.

Pope finally registered a shot on target for the away side with 25 minutes to go through a powerful header, while Marcus Harness was also denied by a smart save from County goalkeeper Joe Day.

The warning signs were certainly there that Port Vale were inching closer to finding an equaliser and they duly got it with ten minutes to go.

It was exactly what manager Neil Aspin would have been hoping for when sending on striker Anton Forrester at half-time, as he calmly collected a long-ball into the area unmarked, before blasting through Day and into the far corner.

No further chances could be created at Rodney Parade as both sides had to settle for a hard-fought draw. A point probably the correct result as both teams took their main chance on the night, as the Exiles remained in 8th position in the League 2 table following a second successive home draw.

Mike Flynn said of the game: “We were the better team without being at our best I think. The boys’ effort was fantastic, work-rate was good and it’s just a shame that we conceded such a poor goal. I’m frustrated because it’s two points thrown away.”

Port Vale manager Neil Aspin added: “I think if you’re behind in a game away from home, if you fight back and get a draw then you’re happy and we will take a point. The players did well to fight back. Sometimes you have to make changes, adapt your shape and put substitutes on - that worked tonight.”




Referee: Tom Nield 

Assistant Referee 1: Richard Wigglesworth

Assistant Referee 2: Christopher Ward

Fourth Official: Richard Wild

Nield is currently embarking on just his first season as a Football League referee.

He has also been on the national list of assistant referees since May 2013, officiating as high as the Championship in this capacity.

So far this season, he has refereed 22 games, the last of which came on 13th February as Oldham Athletic secured a narrow 1-0 victory over MK Dons.

Three yellow cards were brandished to the visitors on that occasion, taking his season tally to 55 yellow cards and two red cards from the 22 matches.

That follows on from the previous two campaigns that Nield spent in the National League, where 44 yellow cards and four red cards were issued over the last campaign. In 2015/16, 36 yellow cards and one red card were awarded from 13 matches. 

Interestingly, Nield was also one of the select assistant referees for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. That saw him given the honour of acting as an official for the Gold Medal seven-a-side match at the games, as Russia beat Ukraine 1-0 thanks to a goal from Eduard Ramonov.


County Connection


Saturday’s game will be the first time that Nield has officiated a match involving Newport County AFC.

He has, however, refereed the Valiants on two previous occasions.

But the result wasn’t a favourable one in the first game as they suffered a 2-0 away defeat to Chesterfield.

Kristian Dennis and Jordan Sinnott both scored to give the Spireites victory on that occasion, while the home side also received two yellow cards on 19th August 2017.

The other game was a much more memorable contest for the Valiants and could possibly be considered as one of the best results of the season so far from any team.

It came on 30th December 2017 and runaway league leaders Luton Town were somewhat humbled in a 4-0 defeat at Vale Park.

A Dan Potts own-goal, two from Tom Pope and a late tap-in from Ben Whitfield helped the home side to an emphatic victory, as in-form Port Vale certainly ended the year on a perfect note.

No bookings were awarded during that game.


Other League 2 games that day (All 3pm kick-offs)

Accrington Stanley vs Cambridge United

Chesterfield vs Swindon Town

Colchester United vs Barnet

Forest Green Rovers vs Crawley Town

Grimsby Town vs Exeter City

Lincoln City vs Crewe Alexandra

Luton Town vs Cheltenham Town

Mansfield Town vs Coventry City

Notts County vs Stevenage

Wycombe Wanderers vs Morecambe

Yeovil Town vs Carlisle United


Can’t make the match?


You can follow along on social media using @NCAFCLive on Twitter, or via the Club’s official Facebook, Snapchat (OfficialExiles) and Instagram pages.

Don’t forget – if you reside outside of the UK, you can watch the game live by subscribing to County’s iFollow service. Commentary by Tim Thraves can also be found at the Match Centre from 2.45pm.