Rooney double is icing on cake in fine Latics show
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 26 August 2013
Athletic 3, Port Vale 1
A FANTASTIC afternoon of entertainment ended with Athletic gaining a second win of the season — and left fans licking their lips at the attacking potential of Lee Johnson’s squad.
Jose Baxter, last season’s top scorer and for many the club’s grown jewel, wasn’t even selected for a contest against rugged opponents due to minor injury problems.
The gap was filled more than adequately by replacement Jonson Clarke-Harris, who terrorised Vale's defenders.
Adam Rooney’s first two goals for the club filled in Baxter’s scoring duties, while James Dayton’s sublime third added the ingredient of genius.
Latics could easily have netted a fourth, as the team, far fitter than powerful Vale in the final stages, pinned the visitors back with a series of passes which brought big cheers from the fans.
Despite Athletic’s searing attacking play – particularly in a second half they dominated – this was a game on a knife-edge before the interval.
When pantomime villain Lee Hughes was brought down by Jonathan Grounds to earn a 36th-minute penalty at 1-1, the good work which had led to former Stoke man Rooney’s opener seemed to have been thrown away.
Instead, goalkeeper Mark Oxley produced a vital save with his legs. And rather than Micky Adams’ men going 2-1 up, Athletic responded to find top gear.
If it carries on like this, Johnson’s mantra that Boundary Park will see a lot of seriously exciting football this season will be proven thoroughly correct.
After a couple of near misses, Rooney made sure in the 15th minute. Montano was the provider from the left and Rooney’s forehead did the rest.
Vale’s leveller came against the run of play. Jennison Myrie-Williams moved infield from the right flank and swept home a well-directed shot beyond Oxley after half an hour.
And it almost got a lot worse six minutes later. Hughes nicked possession from Grounds, won the foot-race into the box and was untidily brought to ground for a penalty awarded by a well-positioned referee’s assistant.
Oxley played his part - and produced a vital flying save from Chris Robertson’s header seconds later.
At the other end, Montano will feel he should have scored on the break, rather than lofting over the bar with his weaker right foot, while Pope had a similar feeling when heading off target when well-placed.
Vale weren’t shy about chucking the ball into the box at every opportunity, but their commitment to attack helped open space for Johnson’s men.
Clarke-Harris enjoyed himself in the second half and played a big role in creating Athletic’s second goal in the 55th minute.
After racing down the right and teeing up Rooney, the ex-Peterborough player latched on to the rebound and hit a shot Neal could only parry into open space. Rooney knocked into the empty net to send the Chaddy End into raptures.
After Montano scuffed another effort, Dayton gave Athletic more breathing space with his first goal for the club.
Baxter’s cameo almost resulted in a fourth which would have been harsh on Vale.
In getting up and running at home, Athletic will now be licking their lips at facing a Tranmere side which shipped five goals at home to Peterborough.
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