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Darrell Clarke demands response after ‘naive’ Port Vale hammered by Wycombe

Darrell Clarke’s side were well beaten (Isaac Parkin/PA)
Darrell Clarke’s side were well beaten (Isaac Parkin/PA)

Darrell Clarke challenged his Port Vale players to show “who is up for it” when they host Accrington in midweek following a “naive” performance in defeat by Wycombe on Saturday.

Wycombe eventually cruised to what manager Gareth Ainsworth termed a “bittersweet win”, owing to his Vale connections, the visitors scoring three unanswered goals to move three points behind Barnsley in sixth.

Port Vale were anaemic in attack, failing to muster a shot on target, and desperately missed the duo of Ellis Harrison and James Wilson, in addition to Matty Taylor, recruited on loan from Oxford on deadline day.

Brandon Hanlan stroked home the opening goal after 13 minutes, with late goals from Joe Jacobson and Garath McCleary rubbing salt into Vale wounds.

“It was a very poor performance and it is about the reaction on Tuesday night,” said Clarke.

“We looked naive at times and our character was nowhere near enough. The boys have an opportunity to show me on Tuesday night who is up for it.

“It is the first time in my 24 months at the club the momentum has swung the other way. Then you start looking for proper characters.

“I am very angry. I try not to be too harsh or negative but the performance was a mile off the standards we have reached at some points this season.

“It shows me, too, how far we are from being a top-eight team… Wycombe have been into the Championship and have experience and nous.

“We don’t look like scoring at the minute and that needs to change. We huffed and puffed with no genuine quality. But the alarming thing is I didn’t see enough character in the team or the performance.

“How they respond will be key. You can never guarantee a win but I want a much better performance [against Accrington]. It is important we are on the front foot because it was a shocking day.”

Wycombe’s current fortunes read as a direct contract to those of Port Vale.

Ainsworth’s side have claimed 19 points from nine games and conceded only twice in eight away fixtures. Goalkeeper Max Stryjek has 11 clean sheets in his 24 appearances this term.

The manager, then – a Port Vale player for 14 months from September 1997 – is licking his lips over the prospect of a blockbuster home meeting with fourth-placed Derby next Saturday.

“It is a bittersweet win for me because this place gave me so much,” said Ainsworth.

“The boys were fantastic, really well organised, Max didn’t have a save to make.

“We defended really well. The strikers will get the credit, they were fantastic, but we got the first head on everything.

“Garath McCleary has been incredible, he’s not started the past couple of games but been a model professional and when you put him on, it’s like he’s playing in the playground. He scored a fantastic goal and won a great header for the penalty (Aaron Donnelly handled when McCleary met Jordan Obita’s delivery).

“We are in a good place but one game doesn’t make a season. We have to make sure we are consistent and we have a huge game next week against Derby, which will be very telling in terms of the play-off places.

“We wanted to get the result here, they are lacking a few strikers and have a couple of injuries and we wanted to take full advantage of that.”