TOM CLARKE will receive his first call-up in seven months as Town bid to push Port Vale through the League I relegation trapdoor tomorrow.
But the 20-year-old England junior international will be on the bench as the Galpharm side seek a third win in four visits to Burslem.
That’s because all indications are that caretaker manager Gerry Murphy will go with the same XI who started last week’s 2-2 home draw with Doncaster.
Experienced defender Frank Sinclair is ruled out by a calf injury which needs a scan, so Clarke seems certain to be on the bench, with Aaron Hardy the back-up player.
Sinclair picked up the calf niggle as Town reserves beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 at the Galpharm on Wednesday.
Clarke’s call will be a big pick-me-up, because he hardly came into the reckoning under Andy Ritchie, despite recovering from a knee reconstruction.
He was on the bench five times at the start of the season but came on just once, in the 4-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Grimsby.
Since then, he’s had a nine-game stint on loan at Blue Square (Conference) club Halifax, his hometown team.
Despite winning their last three games in a row, Vale – bossed by Town old boy Lee Sinnott – are nine points off the current survival cut-off point with only 12 to play for.
Murphy, approaching the second match of his second spell as caretaker manager, knows Sinnott well, from his time at Town, then in the Leeds academy, then as boss of Farsley Celtic.
He also rates him as a coach and manager, but will still be doing his best to condemn him to a miserable Saturday evening.
“Lee was a good player and I enjoyed my academy tussles with him when he was at Leeds,” said Murphy, who was in charge for last season’s 2-2 home draw with Vale. “He did a great job in taking Farsley up to the Conference, and the signs are that he’s starting to find his feet at Port Vale.
“Their run might well have come too late to save League I status, but I’d back Lee to have a decent stab at taking them straight back up.”
Murphy, who has again been holding two training sessions most days, has studied reports of Vale’s games against Orient and Brighton.
“We’ve looked at ways of stopping them playing and kept working on our shape and set-pieces,” explained the man who played 3-5-2 against Doncaster.
“It’s crucial that we come straight out of the blocks, playing high tempo.”
New chairman-elect Dean Hoyle will be in the directors’ box for the first time at ValePark tomorrow.
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