Luke Joyce believes that the humbling 6-2 defeat to Lincoln City three weeks ago has acted as the catalyst for Port Vale’s recent upturn in form, with the Valiants responding by recording a four-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Neil Aspin’s men ran out as winners against Middlesbrough U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy before picking up seven points from a possible nine in Sky Bet League Two.
With last weekend’s 1-0 home triumph over promotion-chasing Bury also marking a fourth consecutive clean sheet, midfielder Luke Joyce believes Vale can now push on.
He said: “We know that the performance wasn’t acceptable against Lincoln and it was an embarrassment to ourselves as professionals, but we’ve used that as a catalyst and a motivation to improve.
“If we are consistent, we will just keep climbing the table, but we can only look forward to the next game.
“We’ve all got ambitions of getting promotions and doing well, but the first aim now is to get into the top half and build on the last three or four results.
“We will then see where that takes us. If you can string a good run together, then you can soon climb the league.
“The gap between us and the play-offs is only six points, and that can change within a couple of weeks.
“If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, making ourselves hard to beat and keeping clean sheets whilst hopefully creating more chances, I think we have a good recipe to get where we want to be.”
The Valiants will be determined to stretch their unbeaten run to five games when they welcome struggling Notts County to Vale Park this weekend, but Joyce insists the Magpies can’t be underestimated.
After losing to Coventry City in the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Semi-Final last season, Harry Kewell’s newly inherited side were tipped to be pushing at the top end of the table this time around.
However, after 15 games so far this season, Notts County sit inside the relegation places. Despite that, Joyce is expecting another difficult test, and he knows that he and his teammates need to maintain the recent levels of performance.
He said: “The dressing room is always more upbeat when you’re winning games because there is more confidence, and results breed that within a squad.
“It’s important that you don’t get too high during the good times and too low during the bad times, you have to stay level headed.
“You can’t look too far ahead, but you can’t ignore the fact that we play Sunderland on BT Sport, and the best way to make sure you’re in that team is by putting a strong performance in against Notts County.
“Hopefully we’ve shown improvements over the last few weeks, but Saturday is another opportunity to do that.
“If we go out there and put in another good performance to ultimately get three points, the manager will have big choices to make as to who plays against Sunderland.
“Everybody is pleased with the clean sheets and the fact that we’ve been picking up wins, but whatever the game is, we need to find a way to get three points.
“If we go a goal down early doors for example, we have to make sure we bounce back and try to win the game.”