Vale went into this game with only 12 players available, including Jacob Emanuel, who hadn't played for three or so months, as well as two debutants in former Pinner JFC captain Alex Trup and Andy Gilbert.
The home side started very strongly in our new-look Christmas tree formation, and perhaps should've taken the lead, Josh Gorb firing over when when placed following an Gilbert knock-down from a throw.
Despite our strong start, it was Raiders who took the lead following a corner 17 minutes in - pinball in the box and the ball seemed to come off a Vale man last.
However, they led for just five minutes as Simon Englander, Vale's answer to Claude Makelele, slammed home an absolute wonder goal from 35 yards to net his first goal in three seasons. The ball dropped to him from a corner and Englander absolutely smashed a half volley into the top corner, leaving the Raiders keeper helpless. Emanuel told JC Sport: "Trust me people, it's not one to be missed and has to absolutely be this week's Champagne moment!! Goal of the season so far - no doubt about it. I don't remember celebrating an Arsenal goal that much in a long time!"
Vale kept pushing for the rest of the half, and finally took the lead five minutes before half time - Gorb making amends for his earlier miss with an excellent side foot finish with his weaker foot, following excellent work on the wing from Sammy Huberman and Josh Wood.
But, another defensive lapse gifted Raiders an equaliser just a minute later. The game was 2-2 at half time.
NLR's superior fitness levels proved decisive in the second half as Vale's good work was undone and their performance levels dropped. Apart from a couple of good opportunities, Vale were forced to sit back for a lot of the second half, without necessary reinforcements on the bench. It'd be fair to suggest that both teams had opportunities to win it and, with five to go, it was Raiders that grabbed it.
A run from NLR's rapid left-winger left his marker for dead. He cut into the box and buried it into the near post corner. It was a moment of real class.
Disappointed Vale joint-manager Jacob Emanuel told JC Sport: "Ultimately today was points dropped. But we go again and look to get a result against Straw Hat Pirates next week."