PNE 3 Port Vale 2
Ninth and ten goals of the season from Joe Garner and a Paul Gallagher stunner gave North End the first three point of 2014 in front of over 10,000 at Deepdale.
North End took the lead just before half-time, Garner continuing his good form against Vale, heading home Lee Holmes’ right wing cross.
Paul Gallagher made it two with a stunning 25 yard drive, before Garner made it three from close range.
Gavin Tomlin pulled one back with 22 minutes still left in the game and then Jordan Hugill managed to bundle the ball home with five minutes left to raise the tensions, but PNE held on.
Manager Simon Grayson had made four changes to the side that won 1-0 at Shrewsbury three days earlier, Jack King in at centre half in a 4-4-2, with Iain Hume partnering Garner in attack.
The game started brightly, with both sides showing their attacking intent from the off. Lee Holmes, back in the side on the right of midfield, cut in to unleash the first effort of the half, 90 seconds in, but he couldn’t keep the ball down after some good early pressure from the Lilywhites.
The visitors were dangerous on the counter and Louis Dodds broke through the middle with 11 minutes on the clock and with Declan Rudd advancing, fired with the outside of his left boot into the side-netting.
The game entered into a bit of a malaise in the middle of the first period, but came back to life on the half hour mark. A flurry of activity in the Vale box saw Garner and Hume both have shots blocked, the latter forcing a North End corner. Holmes delivered the ball and found Garner completely unmarked, but his downward header bounced wide of the right hand post.
With eight minutes to go in the half Gavin Tomlin again showed the Valiants’ pace on the break and ended up in a two-on-one situation against Bailey Wright, with Tom Pope, but he chose to go it alone and his shot from 15 yards out was tipped onto the bar by Rudd.
On 40 minutes Paul Gallagher felt he should have had a penalty, when he collided with Vale keeper Sam Johnson, but the referee decided he dived and booked him for doing so.
The lead came two minutes before the interval. A good piece of patient passing by North End, eventually saw the ball come out to Lee Holmes on the right; he checked back onto his left foot and crossed deep for Joe Garner to head down and into the bottom left hand corner.
The second half almost saw a second after 40 seconds, Iain Hume heading against the foot of the left hand post from another Holmes cross into the box.
The second was an individual one – and what a goal! Paul Gallagher picked up the ball in the middle of the opposition half, drove towards the Town End and unleashed a pile-driver from 25 yards out in a right hand channel into the top left hand corner, giving Sam Johnson no chance between the sticks.
It was a vibrant, end to end game now and Iain Hume was clear through on goal on 54 minutes, but just couldn’t bring the ball under control as he tried to round Johnson, who recovered to grab the ball.
It was three just after the hour mark for the Lilywhites, Joe Garner’s tenth goal of the season. Good play down the right saw Welsh deliver for Hume, whose header was brilliantly saved by Johnson, but the ball came back to Gallagher, who squared to Garner who took his time and buried the ball into the top right hand corner from eight yards out.
Full of confidence the front man tried to lob the keeper from 50 yards two minutes after his goal, the on loan stopper scrambling back to just keep the ball out.
The visitors grabbed a lifeline at the half’s mid-point, Gavin Tomlin heading home substitute Jennison Myrie Williams’ cross from the right hand side into the bottom right hand corner.
Garner was inches away from his hat-trick on 72 minutes, Lee Holmes’ inswinging corner in front of the Town End met my the head of the No.14, but his flashing ball ending up inches wide of the right hand upright.
Vale’s second came from Jordan Hugill after a long throw in from the left hand side to really raise the stakes.
Five minutes were added on by referee Mark Heywood, but North End held on for their first double of the season.
: Rudd, Clarke, Buchanan, Kilkenny, Wright, King, Holmes (Laird, 82), Welsh, Hume (Humphrey, 73), Garner, Gallagher (K Davies, 82). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Keane, Beavon, Brownhill.PNE line-up
: Johnson, Yates, Dickinson, Chilvers, Loft, Dodds, Tomlin, Pope (Hugill, 68), Shuker (Williamson, 59), Duffy, Birchall (Myrie Williams, 59). Subs not used: Neal, Robertson, Lloyd, O’Neill.Port Vale line-up
: 10,653 (1,136 away fans)Attendance
: Mr M HeywoodReferee