Date: 14th February 2015 at 8:35pm
Written by: @adamguestwfc

A truly disgraceful refereeing performance from former top flight official Andy D`Urso condemned the Saddlers to a home defeat and ensured any hopes of turning Tuesdays victory over Rochdale into the start of a winning run went up in smoke at a mildly moist St Valentine`s Day at the Banks`s Stadium.

The game hinged on the frankly cowardly decision by D`Urso not to award a penalty and send off Port Vale ogre Ryan Inniss in the 23rd minute for hauling down Jordy Hiwula, after he had been played clean through by the influential Romaine Sawyers. It typified the soft, weak performance of a man unworthy of his place on the pitch, and one the physical sides like Vale love as it means they can bully the opposition out of the game without fear of reprisal. Which is exactly what they did, and to be fair to them they did it well as they remained organised, defending resolutely, and never really looked in much danger of letting their lead slip after Saddlers nemesis Tom Pope had scored what feels like his 100th goal against us from close range moments after the visitors should have been reduced to ten men.

Speaking of weak performances by a man not worthy of his place on the pitch, the starting XI saw James Baxendale recalled for the injured Anthony Forde; a selection that smacked off of us hoping to bring him off at some point and to then and go and win it at the death. The poor lads confidence is shot to bits as he continually does his best to prove he will never be a winger, regardless of how often he`s positioned there.

It wasn`t all doom and gloom for the home side as Hiwula continued to look dangerous, and Sawyers was brimming with confidence after his dazzling first half display the other night. The Saddlers best chance fell to Sawyers just before half time when he saw his effort come back off the base of the post.

In all honesty, the writing was on the wall just before kick off as the coin toss resulted in us being forced to change ends. I can honestly say I can never remember us winning a game when that happens, and if I was an opposition captain I`d be making us do it every week (let`s hope none of them are reading this).

It also meant those in the Tile Choice stand got to see first hand just how slow and pedestrian our build up play from the back really is when we`re behind and chasing a game in the closing stages. I use the term ‘chasing` very loosely, as it was more of a mild plod as our search for an equaliser resulted in us regularly giving the ball to Ben Purkiss on the edge of his own area, spending a minute or so getting up to the half way line, and then giving it to a Vale defender. It typified a very frustrating day and one we can`t afford to repeat too often if we are going to push for the top six. The way the other results went today, victory would have put us there. As it is, defeat takes us back into the bottom half and represents another golden opportunity squandered.


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