Date: 13th August 2013 at 10:41am
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An at times impressive U’s performance made it six from six to begin the new League One campaign on Saturday as Micky Adams’ Port Vale side were put to the sword on his return to north Essex.

The former U’s assistant manager brought his Valiants to the Weston Homes with a negative set up in order to try and keep a clean sheet, and the experienced manager has since admitted he got his tactics wrong.

If not for some poor finishing in front of goal, the U’s could, and perhaps should, have had a hatful of goals but it was just the one that proved enough in the end.

Lining up with a different formation for the third game in succession, the U’s were straight out of the blocks with the free-flowing, easy on the eye passing game that Joe Dunne has come to be associated with whilst in charge.

Shifting the ball around with both patience and purpose, the hosts took control of the opening half an hour and almost went a goal up inside the opening ten minutes.

Freddie Sears, who put in an impressive performance just behind Jabo Ibhere in a four-pronged attack, getting onto the end of a ball to the right of the goal before lashing his shot against the bar with the Vale goalkeeper beaten.

It was the visiting goalkeeper who would begin to stand out though, with Chris Neal emerging as the Man of the Match in a first half performance that saw him go on to deny Gavin Massey, Freddie Sears and Sanchez Watt as the U’s piled on the pressure.

The away defence was looking slow and cumbersome, struggling to deal with the pace of the U’s attack and Jabo Ibehre was next to see an effort go agonisingly close as the break through continued to elude Dunne’s men.

As the first half entered its latter stages, however, Vale began to find their feet and take a hold of the play, with Tom Pope seeing his attempt at goal fall comfortably in the arms of Sam Walker.

Despite Vale’s emergence towards half-time, Walker remained without much to do and, although the U’s would have been grateful for the break and an opportunity to reset themselves and go again, they would have been disappointed not to have been ahead after forty-five.

The second half would go on to take a similar pattern of play to the first, with the U’s beginning with intent as Massey hit the side netting and both Sears and Craig Eastmond went close with efforts of their own.

Just as it was beginning to feel like one of those days where relentless attack would see the U’s go unrewarded, or even slip to a 1-0 defeat, the breakthrough came with fifteen minutes to go as Jabo Ibehre held up the ball and turned smartly inside the box.

He drove a shot across goal and Neal could only divert it towards MASSEY who, with a quick reaction, slid down and poked the ball home into the corner of the goal to send relief around the ground.

As expected, Vale made changes and tried to force their way back into the game, but although the tension would rise, Walker remained largely untested in the home goal as the clock ticked down.

The U’s would stand strong and secure another maximum haul from their first home league game, although it ought to have been more comfortable than the nervy, narrow margin with which the win would come about.


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