In their last three league games Port Vale have gone from inoffensive league also-rans to party-poopers extraordinaire, and, in one way, they are the last side in the world we want to be playing on Saturday with so much at stake.
The King of the Killjoys delivered the defeat that sent Crewe down three games ago, then punctured the play-off hopes of Gillingham and Rochdale with impressive wins, and now they have guess who in their sights?
Of course, football results are not as easy to predict as that. If we play at our best and take our chances we should be able to beat a team whose form over the season rather than the last three games shows them to be vulnerable, inconsistent and with an unimpressive away record – just six wins all season.
However, their sudden spurt of form cannot be totally discounted. It seemed to have been sparked in reaction to an embarrassing 4-2 defeat to Chesterfield at the start of April. But exactly why? A last-ditch grab at a play-off place themselves?
Well, even their three recent wins have left them with only an outside chance of a top-six spot – five points off sixth place with only six points up for grabs. So one can only suspect that the players’ greatest motivation has been a desire to be re-signed for next season at a club where a majority of contracts are up this summer and the chairman has already warned of budget cuts.
Defensively they now look secure, having conceded just one goal in those last three games, while to prove that the whole squad is up for it, the 4-1 Rochdale win was achieved without their first-choice strike force of Louis Dodds and AJ Leitch-Smith, both injured. Dodds is out for the season while Leitch-Smith is a doubt for Saturday.
Whether manager Rob Page (pictured above) and his players can continue this freaky run is down to us playing better than Gillingham, who have been on a downward side for some time, and Rochdale, who, by all accounts, had an off-day against Vale. So if we perform at our best, we should be ok.
But there again, how may times have we faced a big game with a big home crowd and blown the result? Let’s hope that, just as Graham Alexander’s new management seems to have ended Scunny’s habit of conceding late equalisers, he has also given the players the self-belief needed to perform under pressure.