The bizarreness of the Checkatrade Trophy continued in the week with a penalty shootout for a bonus point. In these days of controversial streaming and playing against under 21 teams, there’s something reassuring about an away trip to Port Vale. That is, until Ricky Miller scores. Here are some things to look out for:
1) The hosts (All Port Vale stats are League only)
I enjoyed looking into Crewe so I thought I’d continue that element. Unfortunately, Vale aren’t quite as strange but there are still some interesting numbers. As you might suspect, the hosts are better at home than away, averaging a whole extra point per game (1.67 at home, 0.67 away). Furthermore, the Valiants have scored 73% of their goals and conceded just 38% of their total at home. They’ve conceded just 5 goals at home, the same amount as us and this strong defensive record will be something they look to rely on.
So far, Vale’s fans haven’t seen too much action with the side sitting 2nd lowest on the average total goals per game chart (2). However, they’re not afraid to shoot and do carry some firepower in Pope, Miller and Kanu. They average 10 shots per game (we average 11) with an impressive 45% being on target (we manage 43%). However, converting these to goals has been a struggle, their goals from shots percentage is just 9% compared to our 20%. The aforementioned Miller, after his 25th move in 12 years, scored midweek in the Trophy and will be hoping for some action. So far, however, he has managed just 1 League Two goal. More prolific is the well-known Tom Pope, he’s scoring at a 1 in 3 rate in the League, although half have been penalties.
2) A slow start, or a noticeable change
I’ve mentioned numerous times about how we improve in the latter stages of games on average. In my research on Vale, I noticed something that really backs this up. In the half-time table, we currently sit 9th with just 17 points. You can tell a lot about the character of teams in the division from this table in my opinion. While us starting slowly is obviously an issue, the fact that we rise to top by full-time is a testament to the fitness and attitudes of the players and the Cowleys’ apparent abilities to lift the team. Conversely, Grimsby are 2nd in the half-time table with 24 points and have been winning in 7 of their 12 games at the break.
However, we’d obviously rather pose the threat we do late on throughout and I suspect we might try and catch out our opponents with a fast start as we nearly did at Macclesfield and Tranmere. If the interview in their local press is anything to go by, it might rattle them.
3) Tom Pett
This season’s surprise package just picked up a fan-voted player of the month award and will be keen to celebrate with another good performance. He’s becoming increasingly influential as he continues to demonstrate his ability to play a deeper midfield role than we expected. I was initially cautious about this having been so familiar with the team being built on the shielding midfield partnership of last campaign but keeps proving doubters wrong.
His rise is evident in the fact that he’s now 4th in our appearance rankings and 7th when it comes to minutes – in fact, he’s seen more action than Akinde. His deeper role has helped free up the attacking capabilities of McCartan, Andrade and Anderson. However, he’s still been able to chip in in the final third and currently sits join 4th with 4 goals created or scored.
I’ve got a column on my spreadsheet which I’m not entirely sure what to call. It subtracts how many minutes it takes us to concede a goal with a player on the pitch from how many minutes it takes us to score. The intention is to give a quick way of very loosely assessing the positive (or negative) influence a player’s inclusion has on team performance. Currently, only Scott Wharton (154 minutes – helped by a lack of minutes), Josh Vickers (108), and Grant Smith (106) can better Tom’s score of 89 minutes.