Burton Albion paid the price for an awful start to the game as they went down 2-1 to managerless Port Vale at Vale Park.
Albion found themselves two goals down inside the opening six minutes and although Shaun Harrad came off the substututes bench to pull one back and Vale were reduced to ten men by the sending off of Marc Richards the home side rode out a nervy ending to secure three points and condemn the Brewers to defeat.
For their second game in three days the Brewers showed two changes to the team that battled to a 0-0 New Years Day draw at home to Shrewsbury Town.
Andy Corbett picked up a knock during the game against the Shrews and made way for Stoke born Ryan Austin to come back in at right back. After an impressive substitute appearance on Saturday Aaron Webster was restored to the starting line-up in place of Bryan Hughes who was still trying to gain his match fitness. Although not completely recovered from illness, Shaun Harrad returned to take his place on the bench.
Vale keeper Stuart Tomlinson, an ex-Brewer, was available to play against his former side after the Valiants appealed his red card at Rotherham on Saturday. Former defender Adam Yates started for Vale but another former Albion player, Kris Taylor, had to settle for a place on the bench.
Albion took to the field in a strange combination of yellow shirts and blue shorts, vaguely resembling a Brazil kit but their was nothing resembling samba style defending from the visitors as they surrendered two quick goals to leave themselves an uphill taSK.
Rob Taylor had already fired wide after a mistake from Ryan Austin in the opening minutes before the hosts took the lead in the fourth minute. Gary Roberts free kick caused mayhem in the penalty area and although Justin Richards initial effort was blocked the ball fell for John McCOMBE to fire home past Scott Malone on the post.
The on-loan left back faired even worse shortly after when he was easily dispossessed by Louis Dodd's on the right for Vale. The winger looked up and picked out a pinpoint cross for Justin RICHARDS to nod home from close range.
A clearly shell shocked Albion took a while to clear their heads although Aaron Webster fired wide from Albion's first meaningful attack in the 13th minute. Russ Penn also threatened with a venomous shot that Tomlinson had to beat away after the midfielder cut infrom the right to fire goalwards.
Albion did put the ball into the Vale net in the 24th minute through Aaron Webster but a linesman's flag ruled the effort out for offside. A free kick from the Albion half was cleared only as far as Adam Bolder who fired a shot in that deflected through to the Brewers midfielder. The Albion players were adamant that the ball had come to Webster off a Vale player but the goal was ruled out to their dismay.
Jacques Maghoma had muted appeals for a penalty turned down as he went down over a trailing Vale leg but referee Michael Naylor was only interested in awarding a corner kick to the Brewers.
The Brewers switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Russ Penn pushing forwards to support James Collins in attack and Aaron Webster moving out to the right wing. The winger took a kick to the foot which left him in some pain and he ultimately had to be substituted five minutes before the break by Greg Pearson who switched with Penn to join Collins up front.
The half time whistle came as a blessed relief for the Brewers after a torrid first half.
Half time: Port Vale 2-0 Burton Albion
Paul Peschisolido made a second change at the start of the second half with Scott Malone withdrawn to make way for Paul Boertien at left back.
Nervy defending still seemed the order of the day for the Brewers as Port Vale looked for a third goal and a booking for Darren Moore, his sixth of the season, allowed Vale to fling a free kick into the Albion box but it was safely collected by Legzdins.
Jacques Maghoma looked Albion's liveliest player in attack and another of his trademark surging runs ended with a shot that was deflected wide for a corner witrh Albion unable to fashion a chance from the set piece.
Rob Taylor went close with a rasping shot just over the bar after a run from the heart of midfield which would have surely put the game to bed and moments later Marc Richards went even closer with a header than came back off the post.
In between those two efforts Peschisolido had made his final substitution with Shaun Harrad replacing James Collins in attack and the striker made a quickfire impact on the hour mark. Maghoma made another burst down the right side of the penalty and fired in a low cross to the near post where HARRAD slid in for his tenth league goal of the season.
The game suddenly burst to life and Vale were suddenly reduced to ten men when Marc Richards was dismissed for a challenge that left Nathan Stanton in a heap on the floor.
Albion suddenly saw their opportunity to take advantage of some fragile confidence amongst the home players and only a good challenge from McCombe denied Pearson a clean strike when seemingly clear through.
Stanton was the second Albion player to pick up a booking and the defender was somewhat fortunate it was only yellow that he saw after bringing down Taylor on a another surging run towards goal. The home fans were baying for red to be shown but referee Naylor deemed a booking to be sufficient punishment.
John McGrath quickly followed for a meaty challenge on the half way line as Vale weathered the Albion attacks and looked more solid again, trying to find that elusive third goal.
Albion still threatened and Russ Penn fired wide in the 85th minute coming in from the right to fire wide of the far post from a good position inside the area.
Pearson had a glorious chance to score as the clock ticked onto ninety minutes but from the right side of the box he fired over to the dismay of the Albion fans behind the goal and Maghoma was closer with an effort from the edge of the area in stoppage time that had Tomlinson at full stretch.
VALE: Tomlinson, Yates, R.Taylor (Haldane, 82),Griffith, McCombe, Owen, Dodds (Rigg, 76), M.Richards, J.Richards (Fraser, 90), L.Collins, G.Roberts. Substitutes: Martin, K.Taylor, Morsy, Sutton.
ALBION: Legzdins, Austin, Stanton, Moore, Malone (Boertien, 46); McGrath, Bolder; Penn, Webster (Pearson, 40), Maghoma; Collins. Substitutes: Poole, James, Harrad, Phillips, Hughes.
Referee: Mr.M.Naylor (South Yorkshire)
GOALS: VALE - McCombe (4), J.Richards (6); ALBION - Harrad (60)
Attendance: 5,681 (530 away)