Port Vale are at Oxford in League One this weekend having been knocked out of the FA Cup with a 3-2 defeat at home to Exeter
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Port Vale have targeted the next six games as they look to establish themselves in the top half of League One.
The Vale have risen to 10th with an impressive start to their campaign after promotion – albeit they suffered a setback on Saturday when they were knocked out of the FA Cup with a 3-2 defeat at home to Exeter City.
The defeat ends Vale’s hopes of emulating last season’s run to the third round, when they beat Accrington and Burton before going out to Brentford, or even 2019/20 under John Askey when they won at MK Dons and Cheltenham before 9,000 travelling fans saw them go out at Manchester City in the third round.
But the prospect of a strong first season back in League One remains a considerable prize and Vale are focusing on a block of games that begins at Oxford on Saturday and continues at home to Charlton, away to Plymouth and Bristol Rovers and at home to Accrington and Morecambe.
The game at leaders Plymouth on Friday December 2 stands out as arguably the toughest fixture of the season so far but that apart Charlton are the only team ahead of Vale in the current table, and only on goal difference.
Versatile forward Dennis Politic looked forward to the block of games as he assessed the cup exit on Saturday.
He said: “We are out of the cup now but we have to focus on the league. We have got a big six games coming up, as the gaffer mentioned in the changing rooms before. So, we have to make the most of them. We are playing the teams around us, below or above us, so we have to try to establish ourselves in the top half of that table.
“We can’t dwell on it. It was an important game and we wanted to win it, but you can’t win all of them. Oxford next Saturday will be a big game for us that we will definitely try to win.”
The FA Cup exit could have consequences for Politic whose opportunities to start in a Vale shirt have been greatly increased by cup involvement.
The 22 year old has made 26 appearances over his two spells with the Vale, but only six of those have been league starts, including just one league start since his return to the club on August deadline day when he arrived on a season-long loan from Cremonese.
Vale are still in the Papa Johns Trophy so that will provide game time but he’s focused on impressing in training so he can make the most of his opportunities whenever they come.
He said: “We have quite a big squad, we have good players and there is rotation going on. I have to accept the fact I am not going to play every game. But, like the other boys, whenever someone steps on the pitch, we have to do our best. That’s whether it is me, ‘Butts’, (Dan Butterworth), Gav (Massey), Mipo (Odubekp or anyone.
“I try to show my best in training, we all try to work hard. The most important thing is helping the team get to where we want this season.”
Politic was denied by Exeter keeper Jamal Blackman with one opportunity, but made certain with another as he slipped the ball past the keeper to put Vale 1-0 up on 27 minutes. They created more than their visitors in the first half but went in all square when Jevani Brown levelled two minutes before the break. The Grecians then had the better of the second half to send Vale out.
Politic added: “We are very disappointed with not qualifying for the next round. I thought in the first half we were all over them. I thought we totally dominated the game and personally as well as the other boys, I thought we had enough chances to put the game to bed. But we have to learn from that and move on.
“I think the goal they scored just before half time is always an important one. I just thought in the second half we didn’t get going. It was quite a scruffy game and they have some good players that made a difference in the end.”