ELTON Vale failed to close the gap on Manchester League Division One leaders East Manchester as they lost 2-1 in Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash.

Vale took an early lead on the 4G pitch at Gorton’s Wright Robinson College but the hosts fought back to win and open up an eight-point cushion in Division One with a game in hand.

Vale rocked East in the second minute as Robin Greenwood was brought down in the box and Gareth Gardiner stepped up to confidently convert the penalty.

East looked shell-shocked and for the next 15 minutes Vale carved out several chances, the best being missed by Greenwood.

The hosts eased themselves back into the game and Vale keeper Curtis Hickman made a couple of saves to keep them out.

But eventually the hosts’ centre-forward cut the ball back for midfielder Matt Roberts to level the score.

The second half saw a searching Vale cross find Steve Simms at the far post but the East keeper threw himself across goal to get a block in.

East capitalised within minutes when a jinking run from their number 10 saw him go down after minimum contact from a Vale defender, who, in hindsight, probably shouldn't have made the challenge. Joe Neild scored the resulting penalty to put East in front.

The home side continued to play good possession football and ran the clock down to inflict Vale’s first defeat since August.

Vale still have eight games left but will have to regain their form at home to Pennington this Saturday to maintain their promotion aspirations.