Neil Aspin’s Port Vale came from behind to beat FC Halifax Town 3-2 in an entertaining friendly at The Shay.
Niall Maher handed Town a deserved first-half lead with an excellent strike, but that was wiped out either side of half-time by goals from Tom Pope and a David Worrall brace.
Town were the better side as the game wore on though, and deservedly reduced the arrears through one of their trialists late on.
If pre-season is throwing up any clues as to what the start of the campaign will hold, then a 4-2-3-1 formation looks set to be deployed, as it was last term.
And Town look settled in it, with the four attacking players linking-up well and offering a threat, and Town looking well-balanced.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnson was Town’s only change from Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Bolton, but Port Vale’s keeper Scot Brown nearly suffered a nightmare start when he miscued a clearance from outside his area, allowing Dayle Southwell to strike for goal from near the touchline at an unguarded net, but he hit the post.
And there was nothing Brown could do to keep out Maher’s opener as he played a neat one-two before curling a delightful right-footed shot into the far corner from 20 yards. Not bad for a holding midfielder.
It came amidst an excellent start by The Shaymen, who were positive and purposeful in possession.
Sanmi Odelusi, Southwell and Ben Tomlinson offered energy, movement and industry in attack, with Town pressing high up the pitch effectively; if they combine this well come the start of the season, they’ll cause problems.
Port Vale recovered from Town’s fast-paced start though, and carved out some decent chances, the best of which saw Pope head wide at the far post from a free-kick and then head straight at Johnson from six yards.
Vale’s corners caused some panic in the Town defence, but Halifax looked resolute at the back, throwing bodies in-front of shots and protecting their lead with vigour.
Vale went close to equalising when Johnson kept out a close range effort by David Worrall shortly before the break.
Moments later, Pope converted Scott Quigley’s cut-back to level the score, but it had been difficult to distinguish the League Two side from the National League team in the opening half.
But Town were caught a little cold soon after the restart when Pope flicked on a long-ball into Worrall’s path, and he finished smartly past Johnson on the half-volley from 15 yards.
Worrall got his second in four minutes with a deft flick header across goal from Cristian Montano’s cross.
Vale were now attacking with the same intensity Halifax had shown in the first-half, and Worrall could have had a seven-minute hat-trick after again being found in the box but dragged his shot wide.
After that, the visitors didn’t look in danger of surrendering their lead, but Halifax did produce some decent football, with Mekhi McLeod and Cameron King again impressing from the bench.
Tomlinson, another to impress again, helped get one back in the dying minutes with a rampaging run down the right, and his cross was converted by one of the Town trialists.
Halifax: Johnson, Hanson, Trialist, Trialist, Trialist (Sellers 46), Maher, Staunton (Trialist 62), Tomlinson, Preston (King 62), Odelusi (McLeod 46), Southwell. Subs not used: Rowley, Kosylo, King, Trailist.
Scorers: Maher (14), Trialist (89)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 7
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons (Daniels 75), Kay (Legg 62), Joyce, Montano (Pugh 62), Worrall (Kanu 71), McKeown (Hannant 46), Smith, Rawlinson, Pope, Quigley. Subs not used: Hornby, Dodds.
Scorers: Pope (41), Worrall (47, 50)
Shots on target: 8
Shots off target: 11
Referee: Sam Barrott
Town man of the match: Niall Maher