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Opposition Lowdown: Andy Crosby’s Port Vale

Riding high off their impressive midweek win at Millwall, Reading face their first away game of their League One campaign with a match against Port Vale. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Derby County v Port Vale - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Form

Port Vale finished last season in 18th place in League One, four points clear of the relegation zone. Despite escaping relegation they had a poor end to the season, losing four out of their last five league games.

The first game of their 2023/24 season could not have gone much worse, having been on the end of a 7-0 defeat away to Barnsley. They did however make it through to the next round of the Carabao Cup, after a 3-2 midweek win at home to Fleetwood Town.

Reading last faced Port Vale over 20 years ago, with the Royals claiming a double over the Valiants during the 2001/02 Division 2 season. Striker Jamie Cureton scored four times in two 2-0 Reading wins.

The boss

Andy Crosby: Crosby will be a familiar face among Reading fans, having served as Nigel Adkins’ assistant manager during his time at Reading between 2013 and 2015. The former defender had a 20-year playing career in which he represented the likes of Doncaster Rovers, Darlington, Brighton & Hove Albion, Oxford United and Scunthorpe United.

Crosby started his coaching career in 2006, serving as Nigel Adkins’ assistant at Scunthorpe. He followed Adkins to Southampton in 2010 and then to Reading, Sheffield United and Hull City. He has also served as assistant manager and caretaker manager of the Northern Ireland under-21 team.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Reading v Bolton Wanderers - Madejski Stadium

He joined Port Vale as a coach in 2021, working under manager Darrell Clarke. He was named interim manager when Clarke was sacked in April of this year and was offered the job on a full-time basis in May. He has won two of his six games in charge of the Valiants.

Squad

Port Vale saw 10 players leave this summer with goalkeepers Aidan Stone and Lucas Covolan; defenders Mal Benning, Sam Robinson and Derek Agyakwa; midfielders David Worrall and Tom Pett and forwards Jamie Procter and Rory Holden all leaving Vale Park for free. Defender Will Forrester also departed, signing for League One rivals Bolton Wanderers for an undisclosed fee.

11 players have come through the door this summer with goalkeepers Connor Ripley (Morecambe) and Jayson Leutwiler (Oldham Athletic), defenders Alex Iacovitti (Ross County), Mitchell Clarke (Accrington Stanley) and Tom Sang (Cardiff City) and midfielders Ethan Chislett (AFC Wimbledon), Conor Grant (Plymouth Argyle) and Jason Lowe (Salford) all joining on free transfers.

Defender Kofi Balmer (Crystal Palace), midfielder Ollie Arblaster (Sheffield United) and forward Josh Thomas (Swansea City) have also joined on season-long loan deals.

Expected line-up

Ripley, Cass, Smith, Iacovitti, Ojo, Sang, Chislett, Arblaster, Grant, Harrison, Thomas

Key player

Ellis Harrison: Striker Harrison joined Port Vale in August 2022, moving from Fleetwood Town for an undisclosed fee. He started his career at Bristol Rovers and made his professional debut in 2011. He stayed at The Gas for seven years, making over 200 appearances and scoring 49 goals.

Derby County v Port Vale - Sky Bet League One - Pride Park Stadium
Ellis Harrison (L) celebrates a goal last season at Derby County
Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

He joined Championship side Ipswich Town in 2018, but only scored one goal for the Tractor Boys prior to moving to Portsmouth the following summer. Harrison had greater success on the south coast, scoring 20 goals for Pompey before moving to Fleetwood Town in January 2022.

Harrison has made 36 appearances for Port Vale since his move last August and scored 11 goals in his first season, finishing top of the Valiants’ scoring chart. Harrison is a physical striker who has previously represented Wales at under-19 level.

One to watch

Ethan Chislett: Midfielder Chislett joined Port Vale this summer, signing from AFC Wimbledon after turning down a new deal with the Dons in favour of a move to Vale Park.

Chislett’s youth career was spent across a number of clubs, spending time at Southampton, Aldershot and Metropolitan Police, where he made his professional debut. He went on to spend time in Spain before securing a move to Aldershot Town. Chislett joined AFC Wimbledon in August 2020 and went on to make over 100 appearances for The Dons, scoring 16 goals.

The South African midfielder is a creative player who can line up in central midfield, the number 10 role or on the wing. He scored twice in Vale’s 3-2 win over Fleetwood Town in the Carabao Cup in midweek.