Page boys ready for Preston North End test

Port Vale top scorer Tom Pope challenges the Fleetwood defence
Port Vale top scorer Tom Pope challenges the Fleetwood defence
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Port Vale visit Preston North End in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tonight hoping that their second visit to Lancashire in four days will be more successful than the first.

The Valiants were beaten 1-0 at Fleetwood on Saturday and played more than half the game with 10 men after a red card for Jordan Slew.

It was a first defeat for Vale caretaker boss Rob Page who has been in charge since the resignation of Micky Adams last month.

But barring a disastrous run of results, Page is likely to land the job full-time later this month.

Vale were close to holding out for a draw at Fleetwood, only to concede an 80th-minute penalty which Stephen Dobbie converted for the Cod Army.

Page viewed Slew’s earlier sending off as a key moment in the defeat, the on-loan Blackburn striker getting his marching orders just before half-time for hitting out at one of the Fleetwood defenders.

Said Page: “I told Jordan that he is going to get centre-halves who want to do that to him.

“He is going to get people who want to bully him and pinch him and spit at him and whatever. He has to rise above it.

“The only way to answer people like that is to score the winning goal against them and laugh at them walking off.

“The minute he lashed out he let himself down and I think it lets everyone else down.

“Overall I am really disappointed because once again the players have put a great shift in. They have given everything for the cause and a sending off and a penalty decision has changed the game.”

Prior to the Fleetwood game, Page had overseen a 2-1 home win over Barnsley and a 1-1 draw at Bradford.

The former Sheffield United, Coventry and Chesterfield defender was assistant to Adams, having initially joined Vale as a youth-team coach.

As well as having to replace the suspended Slew tonight, Page will be forced into another change.

Centre-half Ryan McGivern is on international duty with Northern Ireland, with his place expected to go to Stephane Zubar, who was signed last week on a month’s loan from Bournemouth.

Slew is likely to be replaced up front by Ben Williamson, with Williamson partnering top scorer Tom Pope – he has found the net five times.

Vale’s goalkeeper tonight will be Chris Neale, who came through the youth system at Preston and played once in the PNE first team.

After five years at Deepdale he signed for Shrewsbury and then joined Vale two summers ago.

Neale started the season as second choice to Sam Johnson between the sticks but has got the nod for the last seven games.

And he really caught the eye of Page in the Fleetwood game.

Said Page: “Chris has been outstanding – he looks like he has that confidence back again.

“Those two saves he made at the weekend were world class. One was slightly behind him and then to react and stop the rebound the way he did was fantastic.”

After tonight’s game, Vale are back at Deepdale a week on Saturday for a League One clash.

While North End have a blank weekend in between, Vale play host to Yeovil Town on Saturday.