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Hector Sam, Michael Walsh and Lee Matthews all moved a step closer to first-team action after a strong Vale reserve team beat Mansfield 1-0 at the club's Burslem training pitches yesterday. Sam's 61st-minute strike separated the sides, although the margin of victory would have been greater had Vale been more ruthless in front of goal against a youthful visiting side.


Matthews, who played an hour, impressed but was unfortunate that none of a succession of chances fell to him.

His strike partner Sam must have also wished the chances had been spread around more as he showed a little rustiness in missing the best of the opportunities before firing home the winner.

Sam should have scored on 19 minutes, but side-footed wide after he had been set up by a strong run and cross from Matthews.

The Trinidad and Tobago international suffered more embarrassment on 50 minutes when he sprinted clear of the defence, rounded the Mansfield 'keeper, but inexplicably fired wide of a gaping net from five yards.

Lesser players would have hidden from the action, but Sam broke the deadlock by pouncing on a loose back-pass, swerving past the keeper and squeezing the ball inside the post from a tight angle.

The former Wrexham striker almost set up Sean Doherty for a second on 74 minutes, but the left winger was off balance and fired over.

Substitutes Mark Soboljew and Louis Briscoe went close in the last 10 minutes, although Vale needed a smart save from Jonny Brain to deny Stags forward Rory Boulding a minute from time.

Vale coach Andy Porter said: "The wind made things difficult, but our lads worked hard. It was good to see the likes of Michael Walsh, Mark Innes and Jason Talbot get 90 minutes of football.

"We had always planned to just give Lee Matthews an hour. He looked a lot sharper than in our last reserve game two weeks ago."

Port Vale: Brain, Holmes, Haughton (Prosser, 45), Walsh, Talbot, Cardle (Soboljew, 71), Sonner, Innes, Doherty, Matthews (Briscoe, 61), Sam.