Vale’s injury crisis was exacerbated as they went down 2-0 at home to East Stirlingshire.
Chris Anderson already had to name himself among the substitutes for this one but it got even worse with Euan Saunderson pulling up in the warm-up, prompting a promotion to the starting line-up for Alex Imlah.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, two players – Tommy Patterson and Steven Lynch – were forced off inside the first half hour meaning Anderson was the only remaining option left on the bench.
The team stood up to the adversity well and stood firm against a dominant East Stirling side, until conceding to Paul Sludden after 64 minutes.
Kevin Kelbie struck in the last minute to make it 2-0 and give Shire the win they deserved, although not many would have begrudged Vale a point for their efforts.
After a scrappy opening in which Patterson went closest with a free kick, the same player had to be stretchered off after 15 minutes. It was an innocuous looking 50-50 challenge but Patterson came off worst and appeared to jar his knee.
Signed just this week on a loan deal from Livingston, Liall Smith came on to make his debut.
After the change East Stirling took over for a spell and managed to get forward on their right hand side which Patterson, who often turns out at full back, had vacated.
Right back Jamie McCormack has lightning speed and used that to get forward at every opportunity, forcing Vale on the defensive.
From a corner, Kelbie had a header cleared off the line by Ainslie Hunter and the same player hit an effort from 25 yards which was held by Ross Gilpin.
Drew Ramsay then carved open the Vale defence but Andy Rodgers miscued his shot horribly.
The home side had a chance of their own when a quick switch of play from Smith started a move which ended with Jordan Finnie wriggling free on the right side of the box. It wasn’t clear whether he tried to score or pick out a man but the ball rolled agonisingly across the goal and out.
Other than that the play was almost entirely in Vale’s defensive half but they defended stoically and continually managed to crowd out Shire’s attackers or get a block in.
On one such occasion Rodgers looked certain to score only to be denied by a Jonny Scott-Mercer block.
The last chance of the half fell to Kelbie but Gilpin was equal to his header from McCormack’s cross.
Half time: Vale 0-0 East Stirlingshire
Play raged from end to end at the start of the second half and Vale had the first opportunity. Shaun Stevens went down the left and managed to work the ball to Finnie but a defender got in the way of his effort.
Scott-Mercer prevented another goal when Rodgers beat two men in the box before nudging it past Gilpn, but the right back was on the line to clear.
The ball was finally in the net after 19 minutes of the second half and Shire’s lively front three were all involved. Rodgers got free on the right and found Kelbie in the box. The big forward calmly rolled the ball into the path of Sludden who tucked it under Gilpin.
Vale were denied what looked like a penalty when Jordan Tapping climbed on Craig McBride in the box and flattened him to the ground. You have to imagine that a foul would have been awarded had it happened outside the box and the Vale bench were incensed.
Anderson brought himself on in place of Kerr Allan for the final 15 minutes and Vale began to get forward a bit more.
However, Shire looked to kill the tie on the break and Connor Greene thundered a header into the side netting.
It was a counter attack which brought the decisive second in the last minute when a Vale free kick into the box was cleared. Rodgers won the ball in the middle of the park before surging forward and slipping a pass to Kelbie who had his initial shot saved by Gilpin but stuck in the rebound.
Vale: Gilpin, Scott-Mercer, Imlah, Lynch (Lewis 26), McBride, Hunter, Stewart, Allan (Anderson 74), S.Stevens, Finnie, Patterson (Smith 15).