Banff win top of Vale's Santa list
DEAR Santa – please give me a Deveronvale home win in time for Christmas.
That request could well be top of Vale fans' festive letters sent to the North Pole, with their team managing just one league victory at Princess Royal Park since the opening day of the season.
Assistant boss Craig Stewart hopes this weekend's return to PRP after six weeks on the road can prompt a return to home form from his players.
Vale lost 3-0 to Formartine United in their second trip to North Lodge Park on consecutive Saturdays and their sixth away fixture in a row.
Their last home match was a 2-2 draw with Keith on November 3 while the 3-2 win over neighbours Turriff on September 29 is Vale's only success in their last nine Highland League games in Banff.
"We can't put our finger on it," said Stewart. "But this will be the first home game for six weeks which is quite a lengthy break so maybe that will do us a favour.
"Wick are a good side and although we got a result up there earlier in the season I thought they were one of the better teams we've played.
"They play good football so it is going to be a difficult game but it's not one we will go into worried about. It's one we will go into confident that we can get a result.
"If we apply ourselves properly we will win the game."
Unlike their controversial League Cup loss at Formartine a week earlier, Stewart had no complaints about Saturday's league defeat to the same opponents at the same Pitmedden venue.
Like all games in the north, it was ruined by high winds and Vale did well to contain their hosts against the elements during a goal-less first 45 minutes.
Stewart felt his players may have believed the hard part of the job was done, but the visitors showed little attacking threat with the wind at their backs and Formartine took control.
Vale keeper Grant Pennet's foul on Garry Wood allowed Andy Greig to open the scoring from the penalty spot for United on 57 minutes.
Archie Macphee forced home a second midway through the half and ex-Vale man Graeme Rodger sealed the home side's success by adding number three.
"Conditions were horrendous and made it really difficult but to be fair to Formartine they handled it better than we did," Stewart said.
"They played it the way you should and they were never under any real pressure. Although we've held out for just about an hour Formartine always looked more comfortable in possession and a lot more likely to score than we did, that's for sure.
"We didn't contribute enough, although we got in at half time at nil-nil and you could say that the game plan was working for 45 minutes. However we haven't come out for the second half. Maybe playing against the wind the players thought it might be easier but as we've found out it doesn't always work out like that, and often you are better against the wind.
"Formartine kept the ball down and didn't panic and took their chances when they came."
Stewart also praised referee Mat Northcroft for allowing the game to go the duration on a day when others were postponed or abandoned.
"He came out in his short sleeves and could quite easily have called it off. He would have been well within his rights to do that even at half time when it got worse, but credit to him and his officials and both sets of players because the conditions were pretty awful."
Graeme Watt was back in Vale's starting line-up, while Robbie Allan is expected to return for this weekend's meeting with Wick.
Stopper Ross Aitken is rated 50-50 while the game is too soon for Steven Davidson, who returns to training soon but has a better chance of making the following week's trip to Forres.