12th September 1992
Port Vale (a)
Vale charity leaves Bally with a grin.
Port Vale 2, Exeter 2
Port Vale: Musselwhite, Sandeman, Sulley, Walker, Swan, Glover, Jeffers, Van der Laan, Bartlett, Houchen, Taylor. Subs: Aspin and Cross (Not used)
Exeter: Miller, Hiley, Cooper, Kelly, Brown, Whiston, Collins (Redwood, 72), Harris, Jepson, Moran, Hodge. Sub not used: Williams.
Referee: Mr G Singh (Wolverhampton)
Booked: Cooper and Whiston.
Alan's kids with brave fightback deny Vale
Match Report By Tony Dewhurst
LET'S be honest it's not everyday you see Alan Ball slap bang in the heart of the Potteries these days wearing a grin as wide as a Cheshire cat. After all it's just 18 short months since he was drummed out of office on the other side of the city with the punters screaming for blood and a public hanging. But love him or hate him Bally's back. Thicker skinned for the experience perhaps, but nevertheless a more mellowed out, rejuvanated version and still in love with the game that has handed him more highs and lows than a giant roller coaster.
But even one of soccer's eternal optimists, was pushing it a bit when he candidly announced in Saturday's evening's post match press conference that his rookie Exeter side should have marched out of Vale Park with the points in the bag. "I had five kids in the team playing their first season in pro football and I thought they showed enough character and ideas to have won," he admitted. "Of course I was glad to get a point but the pleasure of seeing my young team battle back against bigger and more physical opposi- tion was very pleasing." Now if anyone had walk- ed out of Vale Park ten minutes before half time on Saturday they would have been fearing for the flame-haired one's sanity after comments like that. Vale didn't just dominate the first 35 minutes - they positively ran the show, taking Exeter apart in every department. Overun in midfield, out-gunned in attack, Vale threatened to run up a cricket score from the moment Peter Swan's powerhouse header was hacked off the line by full back Scott Hiley in the eigth minute. Keith Houchen then saw his powerful goal-bound effort tipped over by the Exeter "keeper before Vale deservedly got their noses in front in the 14th minute. It was all fast and furious stuff as skipper Ray Walker, once again dictating the play with his sure footed passing and vision, swung over a corner from the right. Giant defender Peter Swan, unattended in the box, headed downwards through a sea of legs. The Exeter 'keeper could only parry in to the path of Ian Taylor, gleefully crashing the ball home from six yards out for his fourth goal since a £15,000 summer move from non-league Moor Green. It was all one way traffic as Houchen flashed a header wide before both he and Ian Taylor were just inches away from connecting with a John Jeffers centre across the face of the Exeter goal. "We should have capi talised on our first half per- formance and finsihed the game off after taking the lead, "admitted Valo boss John Rudge. "If we had made it 2-0 we would have been sure winners. "It should have been all over by half time. It really is incredible with the total dominance we had for that period that we didn't end up winners." But all credit to Exeter. They hauled themselves out of a mighty deep hole and fought their way back in to the game like hungry tigers. Ironically their revival was heralded by their first worthwhile shot on goal, seven minutes before half time. Busy full back Scott Hiley began the move on the right and found Vale old boy Ronnie Jepson lurking in space inside the box. Jepson turned and his centre was cooly headed in to the empty net by former Southampton star Steve Moran- and quite simply Vale were never the same force again. Indeed from almost a position of total dominance with Exeter under siege, Vale were chasing the game two minutes after half time. Defender Chris Sulley and goalkeeper Paul Musselwhite got in to a terrible tangle on the edge of the box. Sulley's headed back pass was far too weak to reach the 'keeper and speedy winger John Hodge needed no second invitation, cooly keeping his head to give Exeter the lead. And when Vale's equaliser arrived in the 68th minute it was the slice of good fortune needed to breach the Exeter Ian Taylor, cutting in on the right, crossed hard and low in to the Exeter box for defender Tom Kelly to turn the ball in to his own net at the near post. A minute later Houchen was inches away from restoring Vale's lead. Working his way on to the edge of the box his beautiflly flighted lob had goal written all over it until the Exeter 'keeper produced an acrobatic one handed save to deny Vale their third. But in the cold light of day Vale will rue the chances missed in that hectic, action packed 30 minute first half spell when they could and should have buried Alan Ball's Exeter City.