Season 8, 1987-88
The trials matches went very well with three victories and a draw. In the second of those matches we beat Fitzharrys Year 7 2-0 with goals from Ben Spiero and a penalty from Graeme Smith. The goal from Smith was significant as Graeme’s older brothers had both played for the Vale, Peter (1980-81) and Jamie (1983-85) and neither had scored, in fact Graeme had been in the squad as a Year 5 and had failed to score. The Smith family became the first to have three brothers representing the Vale, and in total were involved for a record five years. Prior to the home Deeside game the selected squad of 14 completed a 13-0 victory over a weak Fitzharrys Year 7 team; goals from Ben Spiero (6), Matthew Ryland (3), and two each from Richard Goodwin and Craig Hillier. Against Deeside, in a tight and exciting game, we lost 3-2, the Vale goals coming from Goodwin and Spiero.
The defence of the Berkshire County League title did not begin well, with defeats to South Oxon (0-1) and Reading (0-2) before a 1-1 draw at Beaconsfield & Chiltern (Spiero scoring) secured our first point. In the following match, at home to Woodley & Earley, we recorded our first League victory (2-1) with both goals from Spiero. After a 0-0 draw at home to Oxford City we won our next four League fixtures before losing away to Oxford 3-1, our goal coming from David Melin. League form was inconsistent in our final four matches with heavy defeats to High Wycombe (0-5) and South Oxon (0-4) sandwiched between victories against Newbury (3-0) with Richard Peirson, Goodwin and Ryland scoring and a last League game victory at home to Beaconsfield & Chiltern (3-1) with another Smith penalty added to goals from Peirson and Goodwin.
During this season we were involved in numerous Cup games as we reached the semi-final of the Witney Cup and the final of the Southern Counties Cup; in both competitions we were involved in a number of replays. The Witney Cup opened with an away tie at Gloucester which finished 2-2 after extra time, the Vale goals scored by Goodwin and Hillier. In the replay a single goal from Goodwin saw us safely through to the next round where we were home to South Oxon and with the game finishing 3-3 (Smith with a goal from open play, Ryland and Nicholas Roberts scoring) we were involved in another replay. The return match saw the Vale record an emphatic 4-0 victory with two goals each from Hillier and Ryland. The semi final saw us paired with Oxford and after a home 1-1 draw, Peirson scoring, our interest in the competition came to a shuddering halt with a 4-0 defeat.
The Southern Counties Cup started with a 2-2 draw away to West Wiltshire, with goals from Spiero and Ryland, before we finished the job at home with a 4-1 victory, two goals from Goodwin and one each from Spiero and Sean Cantwell. In the next round we disposed of Beaconsfield & Chiltern first time, 4-1, with Goodwin (2), Spiero and Roberts scoring. The semi final saw us paired away to Merton, who looked upon The Vale very much as country bumpkins who would roll over easily; we did not. A hard fought match ended 0-0 and when centre-back Ian Woodward went to shake hands with Albert, the player he had marked out of the game, Albert punched him. Albert later went on to play for England Schoolboys, including a match at Wembley, but he did not make it in the professional game; football or boxing. In the replay, Vale again prevented Merton from scoring and the two goals from Goodwin saw us through to the Final, where we met High Wycombe over two matches. The first leg of the final was played at Wantage Town F.C. and in a lack luster display we were beaten 4-0. The away leg was played two days later and the squad showed tremendous character considering the hosts had already beaten the Vale 5-0 in the away League fixture and the 4-0 defeat in the first leg. Vale took the lead in the second leg thanks to Goodwin but Wycombe scored when Andrew Barrett in goal produced a great save, pushing the ball up onto the bar; unfortunately the ball bounced back down, hit Andrew on the head and went over the goal line. The game finished 1-1, but the Vale had restored their pride.
We had completed our Easter Tour before playing our Witney Cup semi finals, our final League match and the Southern Counties Cup Final matches. The match at Deeside ended in a one all draw, Peirson scoring, having lost 2-1 (Peirson penalty) at Solihull South the previous day and the third game ended 2-2 (Melin and Goodwin) against Shrewsbury. Malcolm Fretter attended the final match on tour at Walsall along with his father, and was treated to a splendid display where we overturned a halftime score of 0-1 to win 3-1 with goals from Goodwin (2) and Ryland. The ’87-8 season saw the Vale play a record 40 matches and goalkeeper Andrew Barrett set the record for the most appearances in one season, 39; the record for the most appearances in one season for an outfield player was also set this season, Nick Roberts with 38. Over his two seasons Richard Goodwin set the record for the total number of goals scored for the Vale, 40, as well as records for the most League goals, 15, over two years, and the most Southern County Cup goals, 7, all scored in his second season.
The members of the squad were, Andrew Barrett, Sean Cantwell, Robert Finch, Richard Goodwin, Ian Gordon, Craig Hillier (Y5), David Melin, Richard Peirson, Nicholas Roberts, Matthew Ryland, Graeme Smith, Ben Spiero, Ian Woodward and Jason Wright (Y5).
Richard Peirson was the captain, Robert Finch received the President’s Trophy, with Richard Goodwin and Ben Spiero joint top scorers with 21 goals each.