Assistant manager Andy Crosby was delighted by Port Vale’s defending in all areas, which was the catalyst for their 2-0 win at home to Hartlepool.
The Valiants had gone three games without a win but preventing their visitors from having a shot on target led to them winning with goals from Ben Garrity and Tom Pett.
Garrity bundled in the opener from close range on the half-hour mark and Pett sealed Vale’s victory with a fine second goal in the last few minutes.
And, though it was far from easy on the eye, Crosby praised the players for their defending throughout the team.
“The clean sheet for us is massive,” said Darrell Clarke’s number two. “It’s what we spoke about pre-game, that our performance today had to be about keeping a clean sheet.
“We knew we needed to get back to keeping clean sheets and we did that today. We weren’t at our free-flowing best but I think conditions dictated a lot of that.
“We produced some moments in the final third when we could and we got those two goals but what was most important today was the clean sheet.
“You look at the goals we’ve conceded recently and they haven’t been down to the opposition’s great play, it’s been down to our errors.
“We had good concentration levels today and we defended our box really well, I don’t think Lucas (Covolan, goalkeeper) has had to make a save and when they had their spells with the ball they never looked like they were going to score, so credit to everyone.
“We pressed with more aggression and tried to make more interceptions in their half. We had good energy behind the ball and that was another factor in us winning the game.”
Hartlepool interim manager Anthony Sweeney said the first goal had been crucial and, unfortunately for them, undid their good work in nullifying the attacking threat of play-off contenders Vale for the first half hour.
“I don’t think it was a particularly good game,” he admitted after they fell to a fifth straight league defeat. “I’m not sure it’s one where you’ll see a lot of extended highlights, but that sort of suited us, we wanted to come here and try to frustrate them and be compact and take what was on offer.
“But we conceded a really sloppy first goal that changed the direction of the game. Obviously letting in the second one late on can happen but the first one was the body blow.
“The first goal for us is always crucial, regardless of the timing. I haven’t got the stats to hand but very rarely do we concede first and then go on to get points from a game, or go on to win it. When we score first we pick up a high percentage of points.
“So, regardless of the timing, that was always going to be the key thing. In terms of how the game panned out it’s down to us, when our away form’s not great, to find a way of being resilient and staying in games and quietening crowds, cranking up the pressure a little bit and trying to make the home side chase the game so we can exploit them on counter-attacks and things like that.
“It was working a bit, the crowd weren’t as vocal in their support but then the goal was a pin to our balloon and it energised them and gave them something to hold on to.
“The issue is that we’re constantly chasing games at the minute.”
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