SMITH’S VERDICT: WE’RE PUTTING IT RIGHT
HIGHLY-RATED Port Vale defender Nathan Smith believes he is close to recapturing his best form.
Despite the Valiants’ relegation from League One last term, the 21-year-old was a shining light at Vale Park, even if his efforts proved insufficient to keep them in the third tier.
Smith picked up all five of the club’s end-of-season awards, including the Player of the Year gong.
Having helped Neil Aspin’s troops to three wins out of five in October, he hopes that both his and his team’s form is on an upward curve.
“I thought, to be honest, at the start we weren’t performing well as a team and I wasn’t performing as well as I thought I should be. But I think it is picking up again,” said Smith.
“Hopefully, we can continue to perform well as a team and I can put the performances in that we need.”
As part of their impressive showing last month, Vale had won three on the spin before slipping to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Swindon in their last League Two outing.
Smith said: “We were taking massive steps forward, with the three wins in a row, so then to take a massive step back like that is a bit of a disappointment.
“We have to analyse it and learn from it, but hopefully move on.”
Smith was hailed as a future Premier League player by former Vale manager Bruno Ribeiro but says he is savouring life under former defender Aspin, who made more than 400 appearances for the club in his playing days.
“It is definitely a big thing for me when it’s a defender who has come in as a manager,” said the youngster.
“I can pick his brains and ask him questions, and I know he will come back with the right answers.”
“That’s the nature of the Championship; sometimes you get your rewards when you don’t necessarily deserve them.”
It took 43 painstaking minutes for the game’s first chance to arrive and Millwall fluffed it.
Steve Morison’s cross was met with a scissor-kick from Wallace that went back across goal into the path of Aiden O’Brien, who blazed his first-time effort over the top of an unguarded net.
The start of the second half followed the same pattern as the first – Millwall unable to turn their possession into anything meaningful, while Burton were just content to be on level terms. Wallace’s red card, Millwall’s fourth of the season, may have been harsh, but they should have been ahead beforehand.
And they were punished for an insipid display when Palmer drove a diagonal shot low into the box, that was blocked and fell to Sordell, who finished powerfully from ten yards.
With the final kick of the game Lee Gregory hit the post as he looked to place the ball around keeper Stephen Bywater, who had vacated his line.
Burton hung on though and Clough added: “We said to the back four if you deal with Morison and Gregory you’ve got a chance of winning, and generally we did that.”
STRIKE IT LUCKY: Marvin Sordell scores Burton’s winner to seal their first away win of the season
POSITIVE: Nathan Smith