Consolations from Port Vale’s Carabao Cup exit must include Cristian Montano’s return.
Yes, we know League Two wingers can be as erratic as the Vale’s electronic scoreboard. But this is a player who scored seven goals in a team that struggled for them all last season, who produced one of the best individual performances of the campaign when he took Yeovil apart, netting twice in the 3-0 win at Huish Park in November.
So, completing 90 minutes in Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Burton was a significant moment as the 27 year old started his first game since April.
It hopefully draws a line under a difficult few weeks for the player, who, like anyone, would have been hoping to impress the boss at the first opportunity.
Instead, Montano had to come off with a hamstring injury just 14 minutes after coming on at Kidsgrove Athletic in the Vale’s opening friendly.
So, his summer was spent in the physio room and the gym while John Askey prepared his squad for the new season.
Montano returned to training in time to make the first squad, at Colchester, and come on as a substitute. But it wasn’t until the Carabao Cup game against Burton that he came through his first 90 minutes.
He returns to a squad that has David Worrall, David Amoo, Richie Bennett, Ryan Lloyd and, when he has recovered from his own hamstring injury, Rhys Browne, competing for places out wide.
So, plenty of competition for Montano but he showed he should be in contention with a bright performance considering this was his first start since April.
He reflected: “It has been a frustrating start for myself. I came into pre-season feeling sharper than ever, stronger and faster. Then in the first pre-season game that happened. So, I had to start again. I feel that mentally I am strong and I kept going, working off the pitch, in the physio room and in the gym. I got back into the training and I did enough to start. I am happy to have got my first start and lasted 90 minutes which is a positive.”
His efforts will certainly be food for thought for John Askey as he considers his options for this weekend’s game at Salford City. Manny Oyeleke is out for three to four weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered at home to Northampton last Saturday so the manager moved David Worrall back into a three man midfield against Burton and brought in Montano to play wide on the left.
Montano added: “It is healthy competition and it will benefit the squad in the end as well. No one can just sit back and relax and think they will play next game, if you don’t perform then you are out of the side.”
He looks most likely to be in the side on the left wing, where he has played for most of his career. But he has been mentioned by Askey as at least one of the club’s options at left back. Montano shone in that position at the end of the 2017/18 season after being converted by Neil Aspin. The experiment didn’t last long into the following season as Montano couldn’t find that same form, but he says he learned plenty from the experience.
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He explains: “It helped me understand what left backs have to do in terms of communication and understanding of the position. So, when I do play on the wing I know what I would have wanted my winger to do if I was laying left back.”
One thing that will be expected of Vale’s forwards is fitness to play the high-pressing style Askey wants from his side.
That’s fine with Montano who had to watch from the sidelines in pre-season and is keen to play his part.
He said: “He will work on the 4-3-3 and then tell us what he wants us to do individually. Then we just have to go out there and work as a team and press which is what the gaffer wants us to do. In pre season that is what we worked on – high pressing.
“When I was injured and doing my work I could see them working hard on that. Then when I have come back in and been with the team that is what we have been working on as well. So, I am happy with it.
“I have to make sure I do what I have been doing and hopefully, touch wood, stay fit and fight for my place.”
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