REPORT | Port Vale 0 Wanderers 1

Charles point celebration

Dion Charles made it a magnificent seven for the season as injury-hit Wanderers showed all their combined qualities to secure a second away win of the season and move back into the top six, writes Pete Oliver.

The deadly Charles slotted home a coolly-taken 43rd-minute winner as the dominant Whites looked to be cruising to a first victory in three league games.

But as Vale tried to avoid only a third defeat of the season with a much-improved second-half performance, Ian Evatt’s men then had to display the gritty side of their game to repel the home side and see off a wave of attacks to earn the points that saw them leapfrog the home side into fourth place in the table.

A first clean sheet in the league since August was a fitting reward for goalkeeper Nathan Baxter and a brilliant defensive unit still missing some big players.

And with Wanderers standing firm – and being helped over the line by a superb away following of almost 3,000 fans – they showed beyond doubt their stomach for the fight ahead of two home games in a big week before the next international break.

Charles goal Port Vale

With five-goal striker Victor Adeboyejo added to Wanderers’ lengthy injury list, Dan Nlundulu earned a start following his two goals in the mid-week EFL Trophy romp over Manchester United’s U21s.

The Whites’ bench included just two senior outfield players to underline the current shortage of resources but with Charles and Kyle Dempsey – who took over the captain’s armband – both returning, Evatt’s side still had a potent look.

And they should have led early on when new dad Josh Dacres-Cogley picked out Charles for a chance he steered wide.

That appeared to set the tone Wanderers totally dominated possession and passed the ball around Vale for most of the opening half.

But despite peppering and probing around the Port Vale penalty area – and Nlundulu and Charles constantly worrying the Vale defence – clear-cut chances proved elusive before Charles made the break-through.

Aaron Morley had just tested Vale keeper Connor Ripley as Wanderers cranked up the pressure and two minutes before the break Charles made the difference.

Dion Charles celebration Port Vale

Morley was again involved as he freed Charles after Josh Sheehan had won the ball in midfield.

But the Northern Ireland international still had plenty to do as he ran for fully 40 yards at the Vale defence before powering his way into the box and guiding the perfect left-foot finish across Ripley and into the bottom corner.

That was the least Wanderers deserved, although it still took an excellent save from Baxter to preserve the lead to half-time as he kept out an effort from James Plant as Vale responded with their only chance of the half.

The home side made two further changes at the break and raised the tempo at the start of the second half as Wanderers were pushed back for the first time.

But it was the Whites who went closest to the second goal as Randell Williams cut inside and went past a couple of Vale defender before curling in a fine strike saved at full stretch by Ripley in front of the massed ranks of travelling fans.

In pouring rain it became more of a battle, with Evatt sending on Jon Dadi Bodvarsson as a fresh outlet in place of Nlundulu with 25 minutes to go.

Almost immediately Bodvarsson and Williams were only inches away from getting on the end of a low cross from Dacres-Cogley as a lightning counter-attack almost brought Wanderers some breathing space.

It would have been welcome, despite some outstanding work at the other end as Wanderers stood firm and defended their box superbly, Baxter playing his part as he dropped to save a header from Gavin Massey.

For all Vale’s pressure they were constantly denied a clear sight of goal as Eoin Toal showed his class between the defensive strongmen of Jack Iredale and Vale old boy Will Forrester.

With all those in front of them in Wanderers’ new third kit also working over time, Evatt’s men got the job done to get their campaign back in top gear and moving firmly in the right direction.

Wanderers: Baxter; Forrester, Toal, Iredale; Sheehan; Dacres-Cogley, Dempsey, Morley, Williams (Ashworth 92); Charles (Jerome 80), Nlundulu (Bodvarsson . Substitutes: Coleman, Andreucci, Khumbeni, Matheson.

Booked: Iredale, Morley, Sheehan

Port Vale: Substitutes: Ripley; Balmer (Debrah 75), Smith (Sang 75), Iacovitti (Cass 25); Plant, Ojo, Arblaster, Grant; Garrity; Devine (Thomas HT), Wilson (Massey HT). Leutwiler, Cass, Lowe.

Booked: Iacovitti, Balmer

Referee: Declan Bourne

Attendance: 10,457 (2,784 away)

Read Time: 4 mins