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Match Previews

Port Vale v Reds: Match Preview

28 March 2016

The Reds will be aiming to make it four wins on the bounce away from home when they travel to Port Vale on Monday afternoon.

Victories at Crewe, Walsall and Fleetwood in recent weeks have extended the Club’s unbeaten away run to four games following a goalless draw at Bury last month.

That form away from Oakwell has kept the Reds in a play-off spot, with Paul Heckingbottom’s men failing to win in their last two home matches.

Friday afternoon’s 0-0 draw against Scunthorpe was enough to keep the Tykes in the top six however and with nine clean sheets from their last 14 games, they go to Staffordshire in confident mood.

Port Vale meanwhile, go into the game having lost just one of their last 14 matches at Vale Park.

A 4-0 defeat against leaders Burton Albion in their most recent home clash ended the Valiants’ 13-game unbeaten run in front of their home faithful but with only three losses at Vale Park all season, it has become somewhat of a fortress. 

That reverse against Burton was followed up by a 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury on Friday but despite not tasting success in their last two outings, Rob Page’s side have lost just one of their last six and sit only three points behind the Reds in 10thplace.

Previous Meetings

Barnsley will be hoping to improve on their recent form in this fixture when they travel to Vale Park.

The two sides last met in November, with goals from AJ Leitch-Smith and Sam Foley securing a 2-1 away triumph for the Valiants.

That result meant a seventh defeat for Barnsley in the last 11 meetings between the Clubs including last season’s 2-1 reverse at Vale Park in what was the first clash between the sides in over eight years.

Despite the Reds’ disappointing streak of results against Vale, they did manage to secure a first victory in 10 games against the Staffordshire-based outfit last season, with a Chris Neal own goal and a second-half Ben Pearson effort earning the Tykes victory against the Valiants for the first time since December 2002.

Both of those Barnsley wins arrived at Oakwell however and you have to go back nearly 20 years for the last time the Reds tasted victory at Vale Park, as Arjan De Zeeuw netted in a 3-1 success in Staffordshire.

Team News

Barnsley will be eager to welcome back strike pair Marley Watkins and Sam Winnall for the Club’s trip to Port Vale on Monday.

Both forwards missed Friday’s goalless draw against Scunthorpe through injury which meant a starting berth for loanee Ivan Toney.

The Reds will have to make late checks on the duo but two players who will definitely not be available at Vale Park are Lloyd Isgrove and Ashley Fletcher, with the pair on international duty with Wales and the England U20’s side respectively.

Despite those absentees against Scunthorpe, Caretaker Head Coach Paul Heckingbottom was able to recall Aidy White after injury and the full-back should start once again on Monday with George Williams deployed at right-back.

For hosts Port Vale, they will be hoping to have top goal scorer AJ Leitch-Smith back in their squad.

The former Crewe man has missed the Valiants’ last four games with a hamstring problem but could be set for a return against the Reds on Monday afternoon.

If he fails to prove his fitness, Vale boss Rob Page will have to decide whether to stick with the combination of Louis Dodds and JJ Hooper or to freshen things up with Theo Robinson and Byron Moore pushing for starts.

Man in the Middle

Barnsley will be hoping for a much better afternoon in the company of referee Scott Duncan on Monday. The Northumberland-based official has taken charge of two Tykes games in the past, with the Reds losing on both occasions. The first of those meetings came in August 2013 when Barnsley went down 5-1 at Oakwell against Southampton, while back in October of this season and the Reds suffered another home defeat with Duncan in charge; losing 2-0 against Walsall.

Monday afternoon’s hosts Port Vale meanwhile have won on both of their previous encounters with the Northumberland official. A 3-0 home win against Barnet in August 2012 was followed up by a 2-1 success against Carlisle at Vale Park in March 2014.

No cards were brandished in that game by Duncan but so far this term and Monday’s man in the middle has dished out 72 yellows and two reds in 30 games, with his most recent dismissal coming in February when he sent Brentford defender Yoann Barbet for an early bath just five minutes into the Bees 4-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

Their Star Man

When Port Vale completed the signing of striker AJ Leitch-Smith in the summer, they landed a forward who had failed to live up to expectations in previous campaigns. Ahead of this season the 26-year-old’s best goal scoring return saw him net nine times during the 2011-12 season.

Since that spree – which helped former Club Crewe clinch promotion to League One – Leitch-Smith has found the back of the net just 10 times in three seasons including only two strikes last term for new Club Yeovil.

That disappointing return came as the Glovers were relegated to League Two but despite that less than impressive campaign for Leitch-Smith, he impressed Valiants boss Rob Page during a summer trial and penned a 12-month deal at Vale Park in July.

Many questioned the move with Vale in need of a regular goal scorer and after failing to find the back of the net in his first 16 games, it looked like another disappointing campaign for the Crewe-born front man.

Those doubters could not have been more wrong however and it all started against the Reds at Oakwell. The former Halifax Town loanee struck his first goal for Vale in the Club’s 2-1 success in South Yorkshire back in November but that was just the beginning.

On the back of that strike, Leitch-Smith went on to hit nine goals in his next 13 games including braces against both Maidenhead and Doncaster, as well as a winner against Blackpool in early January. 

That form saw the Valiants move up the League One ladder and to within three points of the play-offs but despite seeing the goals dry up for himself in recent times, Leitch-Smith – who has missed Vale’s last four matches due to injury – saw his tally for the campaign rise to 11 in late February and with the ex-Curzon Ashton man now enjoying his best season to date, Barnsley will have to be on their guard this afternoon as he strives for even more.

Mutual Man

Well-travelled midfielder Craig Rocastle may have featured for 16 Clubs in his career but it all began in the Football League for him at Barnsley. After a spell in non-league with Kingstonian, he joined Chelsea in 2003. With first team opportunities limited at Stamford Bridge however, he joined Barnsley on loan in February 2004.

At the age of 22, the midfield man made his Football League debut in a 1-0 Reds defeat at Wrexham. Things would get slightly better for Rocastle on his Oakwell bow however, with the on-loan Chelsea man playing all 90 minutes of Barnsley’s goalless draw against Wycombe.

Unfortunately for the Lewisham-born journeyman that would be as good as it got in a Barnsley shirt, with defeats against Grimsby and then Peterborough coming in his final two appearances for the Reds. 

Further loan spells at Lincoln and Hibernian came Rocastle’s way, before more permanent moves to Sheffield Wednesday, Oldham and then Monday afternoon’s hosts Port Vale in June 2007. After penning a two-year deal, he made his Valiants debut in a 1-1 draw at home to Bristol Rovers. That outing was one of 27 made by Rocastle at Vale Park, which also included his sole goal for the Club.

In October 2007 the former Grenada international struck two minutes from time as the Valiants secured a 3-0 victory against Cheltenham. Despite that goal, Rocastle began to find his opportunities limited at Vale Park and a loan move to Gillingham came his way in January 2008; for whom he made two appearances.

That switch signalled the end of his time in Staffordshire and after his final match for the Club away at Millwall, Rocastle joined Greek side Thrasyvoulos Filis. After spending a season there, the 34-year-old returned to England for brief spells with Welling United and Dover Athletic, before moves to Forest Green Rovers and MLS side Kansas City Wizards ahead of a return to Thrasyvoulos in 2012.

Form guide

Port Vale’s last five at home: (DDWWL)

Port Vale 1-1 Coventry City

Port Vale 0-0 Fleetwood Town

Port Vale 3-1 Southend United

Port Vale 2-0 Colchester United

Port Vale 0-4 Burton Albion

Barnsley’s last five away from home: (LDWWW)

Gillingham 2-1 Barnsley

Bury 0-0 Barnsley

Crewe Alexandra 1-2 Barnsley

Walsall 1-3 Barnsley

Fleetwood Town 0-2 Barnsley

Going to the match?

Port Vale plays at Vale Park, its address is as follows: 

Hamil Road





How to get there

By Car

Leave M6 at junction 16 and take the A500 south to Stoke-on-Trent. In approx 6 miles take the exit signposted Tunstall (A527). At the roundabout take a left turning, second exit signposted Tunstall A527. After 0.5 miles turn right on to the B5051 (second exit, Newcastle Street) at the small roundabout. Carry on up to the next roundabout and go straight across to the cross-roads. Go straight across the cross-roads into Moorland Road. Take the second left on to Hamil Road and Vale Park is on the left.From the North: 

Leave M6 at junction 15 and take the A500 north to Stoke-on-Trent. Continue on this road until you come to the exit signposted Tunstall A5271. Take the fourth exit, and after 0.5 miles turn right on to the B5051 (second exit, Newcastle Street) at the small roundabout. Carry on up to the next roundabout and go straight across to the crossroads. Go straight across the crossroads into Moorland Road. Take the second left on to Hamil Road and Vale Park is on the left.From the South: 

Follow the A500 east and take the exit signposted Tunstall A527. At the roundabout take a left turning second exit signposted Tunstall A527. After 0.5 miles miles turn right on to the B5051 (second exit, Newcastle Street) at the small roundabout. Carry on up to the next roundabout and go straight across to the crossroads. Go straight across the crossroads into Moorland Road. Take the second left on to Hamil Road and Vale Park is on the left.
From the West:

Enter the City via Uttoxeter bypass (M1/M6 link road) and through Meir and the new Meir Tunnel. Continue on the road until you pass Stoke City's Britannia Stadium. Get in the middle or the right hand lane and turn right at the roundabout on to the A500. Continue on the A500 and take the exit signposted Tunstall A5271. At the roundabout turn right (fourth exit signposted Tunstall A527). After 0.5 miles turn right on to the B5051 (second exit, Newcastle Street) at the small roundabout. Carry on up to the next roundabout and go straight across to the cross-roads. Go straight across the cross-roads into Moorland Road. Take the second left on to Hamil Road and Vale Park is on the left.From the East:

By Train

Trains run to the main Stoke-on-Trent station. From there, you can catch a bus to Burslem town centre. The Ground is situated on Hamil Road (By the traffic lights, go past the Red Lion on your left and Hamil Road is the second left turning.)

You can also catch the train to Longport station which is a 25 minute walk to Vale Park. Head up Station Street then head onto Newcastle Street until you reach Burslem town centre. Hamil Road is then on your left.

By Bus

98/98A: Run regularly from Newcastle Bus Station to Burslem town centre.

20/20A/29/21/21A: Run regularly from Hanley Bus Station to Burslem town centre. 

7/7A/7B/7C: Run regularly from Stoke-on-Trent Bus Station through to Hanley Bus Station and then to Burslem town centre.

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