The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By James Owens

BUR­TON boss Nigel Clough cel­e­brated his 50th birth­day in fine style as he saw his side take an­other step to­wards back-to-back pro­mo­tions with an em­phatic 4-0 win at Port Vale.

A counter-at­tack­ing move fin­ished off by Lu­cas Akins and an own goal from Vale’s An­thony Grant saw the Brew­ers go in two up at half-time.

With Mark Duffy’s won­der strike and a team move capped by Calum Butcher en­sur­ing that their six-point lead at the top of League One re­mains in­tact.

“From the first minute to the last, it was out­stand­ing,” Clough en­thused af­ter­wards, adding:“We were a bit for­tu­nate with the se­cond goal, but I thought the third and fourth goals were bril­liant.”

The early ex­changes were un­event­ful, with the only chance of note be­ing fired wide by Vale’s JJ Hooper in the 18th minute.

Jak Al­nwick pro­duced a su­perb save to push a fiercely struck ef­fort from Butcher wide just af­ter the half hour.

But the home keeper would soon be pick­ing the ball out of the net as the vis­i­tors sprang for­ward quickly af­ter a Vale free-kick.

Tom Naylor moved the ball to the left to Akins as the Brew­ers out­num­bered Vale on the break, and the winger made the most of the space to roll the ball be­yond Al­nwick to score his eighth goal of the sea­son.

Clough’s men saw their lead dou­bled in first-half stop­page time, when Mark Duffy’s free kick de­liv­ery looped up off the head of An­thony Grant, and over a help­less Al­nwick in the Vale goal.

And Duffy put the re­sult be­yond doubt four min­utes af­ter the restart when he drove in from the right be­fore find­ing the far cor­ner with a fab­u­lous left-footed ef­fort from the edge of the box.

The league lead­ers con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate a dispir­ited Vale side, putting the ic­ing on the cake for birth­day boy Clough on the hour, when a sus­tained spell of pres­sure cul­mi­nated in Akins pulling back for Butcher to fire home from close range.

“Port Vale are a good team, but it was more about us than what they did to­day,” Clough said.

“All that mat­ters is that we keep win­ning and keep per­form­ing like that, and we’d like to think we’ve set the bar now for the last nine games, home or away.”

Rob Page was un­der­stand­ably dis­ap­pointed with an un­usu­ally poor home dis­play from his side, and ad­mit­ted that many of his play­ers had been below par.

“Be­ing up against the lead­ers to­day, we needed to be fir­ing on all cylin­ders, and there were too many who weren’t,” the Vale boss said.

“When you’ve got six or seven who aren’t at their best, aren’t hav­ing an im­pact on the game, and you’re play­ing against a team who are on fire, there’s only one out­come.”

Page in­sists that they still have ev­ery­thing to play for though.

“If this is our blip, then great, we’ll move on to Good Fri­day. We’ve got two fan­tas­tic games com­ing up against Shrews­bury and Barns­ley, so we can’t dwell on any­thing.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age

NOT ENOUGH: An­thony Grant fails to stop Mark Duffy’s at­tempt as he scores Bur­ton Al­bion’s third of the af­ter­noon.

OVER YOUR HEAD: Ma­son Ben­nett has an ac­ro­batic at­tempt at goal

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