A Jennison Myrie Williams penalty was enough to give Port Vale a first league double over Walsall since 1900. The midfielder lashed home a 52nd minute spot-kick after Paul Downing had been adjudged to have fouled Tom Pope.
A Jennison Myrie Williams penalty was enough to give Port Vale a first league double over Walsall since 1900.
The midfielder lashed home a 52nd minute spot-kick after Paul Downing had been adjudged to have fouled Tom Pope.
Substitute Milan Lalkovic had the Saddlers best two efforts but was denied by keeper Sam Johnson.
Defeat saw the Saddlers slip below the hosts and leaves Dean Smith’s side’s play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
In truth there was little between the two sides and much focus will fall on referee Carl Berry’s decision to award the spot-kick when Downing and Pope tangled.
Not for the first time this season, the Saddlers will be rueing their inability to sufficiently test home keeper Sam Johnson.
After a week of speculation, it was Michael Ngoo who got the nod to start up front for the Saddlers in the place of suspended top scorer Craig Westcarr in the only change to the side which beat Shrewsbury a week ago. Fit again Lalkovic had to make do with a place on the bench, which also featured youngster Amadou Bakayoko.
The first half saw both sides have efforts on goal, though neither keeper was seriously tested.
It was the hosts who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the tenth minute when Chris Bichall’s audacious lob from 25 yards out sailed just over the bar, after an excellent pass from Tom Pope had split the Saddlers defence.
The visitors hit back with a Romaine Sawyers shot which home keeper Johnson held diving to his right. Ngoo also tested the keeper with a low shot from just outside the box.
Vale’s efforts weren’t on target but looked more threatening and Doug Loft was inches away from a stunning goal when his volley from the edge of the box just cleared the crossbar. The same man then failed to take advantage when he drove wildly over from the edge of the box after pouncing on a misplaced pass.
Ngoo sent an attempted lob of Johnson well wide, while O’Donnell punched away and awkward, dipping Gavin Tomlin’s strike from the left side of the box.
Vale took the lead seven minutes into the second period. A ball into the box from Duffy saw Downing and Pope tangle and the referee adjudged the home striker had been fouled. Myrie Williams drove the resulting spot-kick high into the net.
Ngoo missed a chance to level soon after when he could only direct his far post header from Andy Taylor’s cross off target.
Sam Mantom was then unlucky when a Sawyers cross took an unruly bobble just as he was about to strike it 12 yards out, while James Chambers sent an effort wide.
Smith introduced Lalkovic and Bakayoko – for his first senior appearance - midway through the half and the former almost had an instant impact, forcing Johnson into his toughest save of the match to that point with a drive from distance.
The Slovakian was at it again soon after but Johnson again proved equal to his drive from the edge of the box. O’Donnell was then forced into a smart stop by Loft, before Bakayoko missed a glorious chance when he shot straight at Johnson after pouncing on a loose backpass.
The young striker was then denied by an excellent Carl Dickinson challenge after threatening to break through again.