Leading goalscorer Luke Varney’s tenth goal of the season was enough to earn Cheltenham Town an important victory over Port Vale at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
A set-piece in the first half was brilliantly worked in by defender Chris Hussey, and Varney was on hand to power the ball past Scott Brown in the Vale goal, in a carbon copy of the one they combined for at Notts County.
The second half had few chances to speak of, but Cheltenham survived the late Vale aerial onslaught to increase the gap between them and the relegation zone to 11 points and registered a fourth consecutive home win for the first time since April 2013.
Cheltenham boss Michael Duff made one change to the side that defeated Cambridge United 2-0 on Tuesday night, as topscorer Luke Varney came back into the side after a hamstring injury to replace Rakish Bingham.
The Robins started the game at a quick pace, and only a fantastic stop from Vale, and former Cheltenham Town stopper Scott Brown kept striker Luke Varney from adding to his tally for the season after some great work by Ryan Broom down the right flank.
Valiants midfielder Ben Whitfield was the first to test Scott Flinders – who had to contend with the sunshine in his eyeline in the first half – after Conor Thomas’ loose pass was intercepted by Whitfield, but his fierce drive was well gathered by Flinders after originally spilling the effort.
David Worrall did have the ball in the net for the visitors after Cristian Montano got the better of defenders Broom and Charlie Raglan on the byline, but Worrall failed to stay onside for the defender’s cutback.
Cheltenham continued to exploit Vale down the right wing, and Broom was at it again turning Montano inside and out before picking out Jacob Maddox in space in the area, but his effort was deflected out for a corner.
From the resulting corner, the Robins made their dominance count after a set-piece routine was worked to perfection by Hussey as he drilled a low ball into the area and Varney peeled off his marker before drilling a low effort past Brown in the Vale goal.
The forward didn’t have to wait long for another chance to come around and it was Broom again causing issues down the right-hand side after he set the ball back for Kevin Dawson, who put a good curling cross into the path of Varney, but the striker failed to direct his header on goal.
Vale’s left-back Montano, however, managed to beat the Robins press to earn the visitors’ best chance of the half when some good build-up play down Vale’s right wing resulted in a dangerous cross flying across the face of Cheltenham’s six-yard box, but Montano’s glancing header went inches wide of the post.
Cheltenham started the second forty-five in similar fashion to the first, and another Hussey delivery was begging to be put in after he’d earned a free-kick on the left wing, but Varney failed to double his tally for the game – despite escaping the attentions of his marker – as he looped his volley over.
But it was a dogged battle in the middle of the pitch for much of the second period, as the Robins looked to repel the Vale press that was aided by the introduction of Ricky Miller and Tom Conlon midway through the half.
The Robins defence stood firm to the Valiants response, with captain Ben Tozer doing especially well to nick the ball out of frontman Tom Pope’s path before he could get a shot away.
There weren’t many chances for the Robins towards the end of the game and it was all hands to the defensive effort as Cheltenham ensured there weren’t any late scares in the dying embers of the game, as they secured yet another vital victory.
ROBINS: Flinders, Broom, Raglan, Tozer, Boyle, Hussey, Thomas, Dawson, Maddox (Clements 78’), Waters (Tillson 88’), Varney (Barnett 84’). Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), Forster, Bingham, Pring.
PORT VALE: Brown (Gk), Gibbons, Montano (Miller 73’), Legge, Kay, Worrall (Hannant 83’), Oyeleke (Conlon 67’), Pope, Crookes, Smith, Whitfield. Subs not used: Hornby (Gk), Harris, Clark, Howkins.
REFEREE: P. Wright
ATTENDANCE: 3,079 (291 away)