Darrell Clarke flattered by reception from Port Vale fans on his winning return

By Sports Desk October 28, 2023

Cheltenham manager Darrell Clarke said it was a “nice touch” to hear the Port Vale fans chant his name after making a winning return to his former club.

A brace from captain Sean Long saw the Robins come from behind to win 2-1 and secure just their second victory of the season, moving them off the bottom of the League One table.

Clarke led the Valiants to promotion from League Two in the 2021-22 campaign before being sacked in April of this year and then appointed by Cheltenham in September.

“I had a great rapport with the Port Vale fans here,” he said. “I had a great couple of years here – they’re a passionate bunch.

“I thank them for all the love and support they gave me while I was manager here.

“And our Cheltenham fans who travelled down here. I thank them for their support, they were amazing all game.

“So yeah it was a nice touch and I’m really thankful for that.”

Vale went ahead in the 32nd minute when Tottenham loanee Alfie Devine found the net with an acrobatic effort after skipper Nathan Smith guided a header from a corner to the back post.

Their lead lasted only 10 minutes though, with Long blasting home after latching onto a loose ball in the penalty area.

Cheltenham’s winner came in the 66th minute as Long’s deflected effort looped over goalkeeper Connor Ripley and into the net.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a pleasing win,” Clarke added. “We fought, we grafted.

“I thought in the first half an hour we created chances and they scored a little bit against the run of the play, which we’re disappointed on.

“But then the reaction of the boys was very good, so I’m really pleased with that.”

Vale manager Andy Crosby thinks the performance of his team, now without a win in eight league matches, was their poorest of the season.

“Without the ball, we didn’t win enough duels, we didn’t win enough battles, we didn’t win enough first contacts, we didn’t win enough headers, we didn’t win enough second balls,” he said.

“And then, when you get the ball back, you have to continue to show the bravery to get on the ball and play the game that we’re trying to play.

“And perhaps we got caught in between a little bit, in terms of then going more direct and then into the front.

“The team who played the best won the game.”

Vale scored a first goal in six league games, but they’ve now dropped to 16th after a promising start to the season.

“It’s important that collectively we now all go away, me included and you look at yourself and ask are you currently producing your best?,” Crosby added.

“If not, why not? And what can you do to make sure that your performance is better?

“Because this is about all of us. We’re in this position. We all have to do something about it.”

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