A look at how Port Vale are faring including Newcastle United loanee and former Hartlepool United defender Lewis Cass
Things don’t get any easier for Hartlepool this weekend when they travel to promotion chasing Port Vale.
Pools are enduring their most difficult spell in a year having lost their last four games and meet a Vale side who sit fifth in the League Two table.
And ahead of Saturday’s game we spoke with the man on the pulse at Port Vale, Stoke-on-Trent Live’s Michael Baggaley to see what Pools can expect and how some familiar faces have fared at Vale Park this season.
How are Port Vale doing this season?
"If you’d asked me this a couple of weeks ago when Vale were looking for a win at home to Bradford to go top of the table, I would have said performing way above expectations.
"They’ve had a wobble since then, drawing that Bradford game, losing a game they should have won at Oldham and then being outfought and outplayed in a 1-0 defeat at home to Walsall on Tuesday.
"That said, I am sure most fans would have taken being fifth at this stage of the season. Darrell Clarke has done an impressive job with a much changed squad."
What can Hartlepool expect on Saturday?
"Vale have lined up 3-5-2 in most of their games, occasionally changing to 3-4-3. The manager isn’t afraid to make changes during a match. Vale have also switched to a back four when needed."
Ryan Johnson and Lewis Cass were both part of Pools' promotion last season, how have they done this season?
“We haven’t seen much of Ryan Johnson. He was held back a little bit by injury and then hasn’t been able to get regular games in a winning side. Lewis Cass has done well, playing mostly on the right of a back three where he is clearly comfortable bringing the ball out and driving forward. His form has dipped a little over the last couple of games but that’s true for several players."
Lucas Covolan is another player who Pools fans will remember from the promotion final. How has he done? Any penalties to save or any last minute headers to be had?
“He’s done well. Some fans took a while to take to him. We aren’t used to seeing a sweeper-keeper so willing to come out of his area. So, when he was sent off on the opening day at Northampton after being caught in possession, a few doubts were voiced.
“But he has come through that and his willingness to come out of his box helps the team press higher up the pitch. He’s also looked very solid in goal and arguably been Vale’s best player over the last two games. He's been up for corners but he hasn’t scored yet!”
Mark Cullen is set to return, what was he like with Port Vale? Is he seen as Pools' biggest threat this weekend?
“Fans will half expect a goal from Mark Cullen on the basis of that’s what usually happens when a former striker returns. He just couldn’t get a run of games at Vale, suffering one or two injuries along the way.
“But when he did play, he looked a threat in front of goal, a composed finisher. He always came across in interviews as genuine as well so I am sure supporters will wish him well, just not on "