SWINDON Town beat Port Vale in an entertaining encounter at The County Ground, winning by 5 Goals To 2, writes Adrian Smith.
Mark Cooper’s men were pegged back after taking a three goal lead through N’Guessan, Ranger and Luongo before Vale scored two goals through Pope and Hughes. However Byrne’s absolute cracker of a goal in the 82nd minute and Luongo’s second of the game removed any danger of Vale snatching at least a point.
Port Vale kicked off playing against the very strong wind after an impeccably observed one minutes silence in honour of those who had fallen in Armed conflict.
Swindon lined up with the only change from the Oldham game being Jay McEveley returning from suspension to replacing Yaser Kasim who was suspended for reaching 5 yellow cards.
The referee Mr Woolmer waved away two good appeals for free kicks on the edge of the Vale area before Tom Pope unleashed a vicious shot from 30 yards which saw the ball fly into the side netting past a relieved Wes Foderingham.
The strength of the wind was demonstrated when a goal kick from Foderingham ran the whole length of the pitch and out for a goal kick to the visitors!
Jay McEveley was the first Town player to have a shot in the 14th minute with a long range powerful effort which was smothered by Vale keeper Chris Neal.
One minute later the referee awarded a free kick for a late challenge on Pritchard when playing the advantage would have been a better option but Mason’s long range effort struck the defensive wall and was cleared.
Grant Hall did well to deny Tom Pope time and space on the edge of the Town area with the Vale dangerman looking set for a shot on goal.
Alex Pritchard fired in a good low shot from 20 yards which was spilled by the keeper but Nile Ranger was just unable to pounce on the rebound as the rain started falling making the pitch even more greasy.
Town were awarded a free kick in the 24th minute for a foul on Dany N’Guessan on the left hand margin of the Vale penalty area and up stepped McEveley to send a superb cross to the edge of the 6 yard box where N’Guessan headed home for his 6th goal of the season.
Vale responded through Adam Yates who fired wide of the right hand upright under pressure from Town captain Darren Ward.
The goal seemed to add an extra spring in Town’s step and N’Guessan did well to outpace the Vale defence to latch onto a pass by Mason but the keeper pushed the ball away and there were no Town players on hand to pick up the loose ball.
Ben Williamson went close for Vale in the 29th minute when he ghosted in front of the Town defence to flick the ball just wide with Foderingham beaten and the Town keeper was in action shortly afterwards playing as a sweeper to deny a dangerous looking Vale attack 10 yards outside the penalty area.
Tom Pope wasted a good chance in the 38th minute when he fired wide of the left hand upright under no pressure when it appeared easier to score.
The first yellow card of the match was shown to Carl Dickinson for his second foul on Pritchard in as many minutes but McEveley sent his long range kick over the bar having achieved the same feat shortly before from another free kick.
One minute of added time was played with no significant action to report before the half time whistle was blown.
Swindon showed their attacking intent straight from the kick off with Massimo Luongo and N’Guessan placing the Vale defence under pressure within the first minute of the second half. The wind continued to blow a gale but the rain had stopped as Mark Cooper’s men looked to double their lead by keeping the ball down and passing it around.
Alex Pritchard was fizzling like a jack in the box firework popping up all over the box and he set up Town’s second goal with a fierce cross across the box from the goal line where it was headed home by Nile Ranger for his 6th goal of the season to double the lead in the 50th minute.
Chris Lines talked his way into the referee’s notebook in the 55th minute after disputing a free kick but that came to nothing.
Town’s 3rd goal in the 57th minute owed much to Nathan Thompson who did superbly well to trap a powerful cross on the right wing before passing the ball to Luongo who tricked his way past a defender to fire in a vicious curling shot and keeper was beaten by the sheer power of the shot to give Luongo his 4th goal of the season.
Vale manager Micky Adams made a triple substitution in the 59th minute introducing Lee Hughes, Daniel Jones and Jennison Myrie-Williams as his side had simply struggled to cope with the attacking pounding that Swindon were imposing on the Vale side. However it appeared to have little immediate impact as Town continued to find holes in the Vale defence thanks to their attacking intent.
Lee Hughes was involved in a mass confrontation in the home dugout midway through the second half while trying to retrieve the ball which had gone out for a throw in and after order had been restored, the referee consulted the 4th official before he sent Fraser Digby down the tunnel and showed a yellow card to Hughes.
Vale had the ball in the net shortly afterwards but the offside flag had already been raised.
Swindon soon got back into their passing game which Vale were struggling to cope with and Lee Hughes was roundly booed as soon as he got anywhere near the ball for his part in the confrontation.
Port Vale got a foothold back in the game when Tom Pope outpaced the defence before rounding Foderingham to slot home in the 73rd minute. Unfortunately Nathan Thompson collided with the post while trying to keep the ball out and left the field on a stretcher clutching his shoulder to be replaced by Barthram.
Ryan Mason was replaced by Louis Thompson in the 78th minute.
Alex Pritchard was shown a yellow card for simulation after tumbling in the penalty area and there was even more drama to follow shortly afterwards when Lee Hughes touched home in the 80th minute from close range after a flick on to bring Vale back within one goal of Town.
However Town’s nerves were settled when Nathan Byrne scored arguably one of the best goals of the season so far at the County Ground following a superb counterattack which led to Byrne curling in Town’s 4th from approximately 30 yards out on the left wing.
Vale’s frustration was apparent and Liam Chilvers was lucky not to see a yellow card for a cynical foul on N’Guessan on the right wing but the resulting free kick was wasted.
N’Guessan left the field to good applause when he was replaced by Mohamed Elgabas in the 85th minute as Mark Cooper shuffled his pack to try and retain the two goal lead.
Massimo Luongo was leading the way with some good challenges in midfield as Town desperately tried to keep Vale at bay as the game ebbed and flowed.
The 4th official indicated that 6 minutes of added time would be played and Town continued to press forward after soaking up any Vale attack.
Massimo Luongo scored Town’s 5th in the 4th minute of added time when he tricked his way past a Vale defender before firing home an angled shot across goal to seal the three points for Mark Cooper’s men. This was the second time in as many matches that Swindon had put 5 past Port Vale having previously scored 5 without reply when the two teams last met in League Two in season 2011/12.
There was no further action to report in either goalmouth before the match ended and the home side left to great applause from the majority of the County Ground crowd of 7637
The Robins now move onto 23 points from 15 games and now look forward to an FA Cup first round match at Macclesfield on Saturday 9th November.
Swindon Town: Foderingham, Thompson N, Hall, Ward (C), McEveley, Byrne, Luongo, Mason, Pritchard, Ranger, N'Guessan
Substitutes: Belford, Thompson L, Barthram, Branco, Ajose, Elgabas, Cox