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Martin Foyle had just finished a radio interview when he turned a corridor and stumbled on Chris Birchall talking about his next game.


"It is vital," said Birchall. "It is a must-win. A draw won't do so we will go all out for three points - against Panama." Having just seen Birchall produce his best performance of the season, the reminder that the 21-year will next be in action in Central America, rather than Swindon, was one of the few things which could have spoiled Foyle's supper after this much-needed, and richly-deserved, victory.

After the Panama game, Trinidad and Tobago are at home to Mexico a week on Wednesday. That could mean Birchall also missing the home game against Bradford on October 15 as he is unlikely to return until the day before the match.

"It's a shame he is going on his travels again because it does mess us around a bit," said Foyle.

"He has come back tired and mentally shattered and I have had to rest him at the right times because I want him back to his best. Hopefully, after this, he will be."

All fingers and toes will be crossed in the hope Birchall returns unscathed, because Vale have no other fit wingers in the squad, with the exception of youth-teamer Joe Cardle.

Tony Dinning returns from suspension for the Swindon game, but how to replace wide-man Birchall is a problem for Foyle, particularly as the youngster signed off with his first goal of the season and almost created a couple more.

The good news is that Vale's new-found potency wasn't entirely due to Birchall.

Indeed, he wasn't even their best player as an attack which had gone four-and-a-half hours without scoring netted its third, fourth and fifth goals in the space of two games. It is no coincidence that the 2-2 draw against Oldham and this 3-2 win have also marked Gary Mulligan's first two full appearances.

The 20-year-old Sheffield United striker's value to the team could not have been more obvious as he buzzed around the pitch, wreaking havoc among a disorganised Walsall defence.

Vale are sure to try to extend Mulligan's loan spell when it runs out in two weeks.

The Dubliner deserved his goal, as did Chris Cornes, who continued to work his way back into the management's good books with his 72nd-minute winner.

Foyle added: "People always judge us on who we bring in and I thought Gary Mulligan had a good partnership with Billy Paynter.

"Billy probably deserved a goal. It is not dropping for him at the moment, but if he keeps doing what he is, I guarantee they will come and they will flow.

"Cornesy has to work a lot harder away from home. People ask why we haven't played him, but there are little bits he has to learn. But again we have shown him the video and the bits and pieces and hopefully it will start to sink in."

There was definitely the sense of the penny dropping throughout the side on Saturday as Vale produced plenty of the exciting, creative football which had been missing in recent weeks.

Danny Sonner pulled the strings from central midfield, where his successful partnership with Michael Cummins will give Foyle food for thought ahead of Dinning's return.

Vale also enjoyed playing against a Walsall side who were prepared to take them on in an open game rather than camp behind the ball as Colchester did in the Valiants' only home defeat.

Foyle's side were aided by schoolboy defending from the visitors, but Paul Merson's complaints about his back four shouldn't disguise the fact that Vale played well enough to have run in five or six goals.

Vale's defensive lapses seemed more significant at half-time after Walsall had hit back from Birchall's eighth-minute opener - placed past John Ruddy from 16 yards after a clever pass from Sonner.

Foyle was unlucky to lose George Abbey through injury on 21 minutes and Steve Rowland still hadn't settled into the game three minutes later when Ishmel Demontagnac raced inside him to the byline before cutting across a dangerous pass which Sam Collins ran into his own goal.

Demontagnac, a 17-year-old debutant, then produced a moment of brilliance to give the Saddlers a 36th-minute lead as he shook off Pilkington's challenge 35 yards from goal before bending the ball past Goodlad.

Vale almost levelled when Cummins headed Birchall's cross against the underside of the bar towards the end of the first half, but found a way through on 55 minutes when Ruddy failed to hold Rowland's shot and Mulligan bundled home the rebound.

Cornes completed the comeback by lashing the ball home from the edge of the area after the visitors' defence had failed to clear their lines, although only determined defending in the last 10 minutes preserved the lead.

Birchall will be missed at Swindon next week, but can hardly be blamed for wanting to help his adopted country to the World Cup finals.

In the meantime, Foyle can take much satisfaction from a performance which has lifted Vale back into the play-off places after a run of four games without a win.

He said: "I am pleased for the players.

"I don't want plaudits. Whether we do well or not it is not about me, it is about the players.

"My question to them is how far do they want to go? Do they want to win something and do they want to go on and play against better players? I am looking for the response over the next three or four games."