Season 9, 1988-89
The usual trials matches were played before the Final Squad was selected with the ‘A’ winning two and losing two. The first match with the squad of 14 was a home League match against South Oxon, which was won 2-0, with both goals coming from Ian Concannon. Following an away friendly defeat to Mid Oxon 3-4, two goals from Concannon and one from Craig Hillier, our next fixture was the visit of Deeside. Included in the Deeside squad was a highly thought of nine year old named Michael Owen. Once again the fixture was played at Didcot Town’s Station Road ground and goals from Chris Cording, Chris Hodgson and Concannon resulted in a 3-1 victory. Michael Owen came on as a substitute at half time in the first of his six appearances for Deeside against The Vale.
A friendly victory at Swindon came next followed by two 1-1 draws in our League programme. The next fixture was an away friendly at Cheltenham which proved to be the highest scoring victory of the season, 8-0, with goals from Concannon (2), Lee Zavala (2), Hodgson, Craig Hillier and two own goals. The following week we were brought back to earth with a 0-2 league defeat at home to Oxford, but this was followed by a seven match winning run which included wins over South Oxon in the Witney Cup; Newbury twice, Woodley & Earley and South Oxon in the League and Weston-Super-Mare and Slough in the Southern Counties Cup. Whilst the first of those two cup games was fairly comfortable, 3-0 (Hillier, Hodgson and Concannon), the Slough match was won by the only goal of the game, scored by Hillier.
The winning sequence ended with a 2-2 draw (Concannon and an own goal) in the League away to Beaconsfield & Chiltern. Our interest in the Witney Cup ended in the next match away to Reading, although in our very next game we drew 0-0 with Reading in the League. A 4-2 (Concannon 2 and Chris Gettings 2) victory in the League away to Woodley & Earley preceded three defeats where we failed to score, two League matches and a friendly, before we found our scoring boots again in the first of our Easter tour matches at Solihull South where we won 2-1, Zavala scoring both. Deeside provided our next opposition with Owen again coming on as a substitute at half time. The match finished 1-1 with Concannon again on target. The final two tour matches were both lost and again we failed to score in either. Two friendly games were played after Easter and it was good to get back to winning ways with home victories over Aylesford 3-0 and Jersey 1-0. The final League match was played away to Slough after school and considering the long journey after a full day in class, the team did well, just losing 2-3. Vale’s goals were scored by Hillier and Jamie Brown; top scorer Concannon was unavailable for that match!
The final two games of the season were both in the Southern Counties Cup, the first a tricky away fixture at Barking & Dagenham. The opponents probably underestimated their visitors, but a thrilling 2-1 victory sent Vale through to final. Vale’s goals were scored by Concannon and Brown and the match was notable for the fact that Jamie Brown’s dad could not stand the tension and ended up walking round the outside of the high hedge that surrounded the pitch.
The Southern Counties Cup Final was played at Didcot Town against Sutton and after going into a 2-0 lead the Vale were knocked back when two players collided and both had to be substituted with a knock to their head. An injury to a Sutton player, who it must be said over-reacted to his knock, disrupted the game further and Sutton took advantage when the match recommenced, going into a 4-2 lead. Vale found their way back into the game with another goal but despite finishing the stronger team, couldn’t find an equaliser. Vale’s goals were scored by Hillier, Hodgson and Gettings.
Over his two seasons with the Vale, Craig Hillier made the most appearances with 71.
The full squad was Jamie Brown, Ian Concannon, Chris Cording, Matthew Dillon, Stuart Game, Chris Gettings, Matthew Goddard, Craig Hillier, Chris Hodgson, Jonathan Moodey, Mark Reynolds, Phil Riding, Jason Wright and Lee Zavala.
Craig Hillier was the Vale captain, the President’s Trophy was awarded to Stuart Game and the top scorer was Ian Concannon with 32 goals, the most scored in one season and included 15 league goals, also the most scored in one season.