Darrell Clarke praised his team’s work rate after they clinched a fourth victory in succession by beating Exeter 1-0 at Vale Park.
Theo Robinson’s second-minute strike proved the difference as Vale dominated the game.
The hosts could have doubled the lead on numerous occasions through Devante Rodney.
Rodney, heavily involved in the build-up for the goal, was fabulously twice denied by on-loan Reading ‘keeper Jokull Andresson in either half.
After teeing up David Worrall, the winger fired across goal and Andresson palmed his effort at the feet of Robinson, who slotted home his first goal in over five months.
“I’m pleased for Theo, you want centre forwards to score goals obviously but I think hard work gets you there” said Clarke.
“I think hard work gets centre forwards chances, when you put the graft in that Theo has done you create chances for your team and for your team-mates as well.
“I’m really pleased for the football club, for the players, for the fans, it’s been a hell of a reaction to get four wins and now we can start looking up the table I think.
“The boys have given me absolutely everything against a decent Exeter team and we’ve got a fantastic clean sheet as well.
“I think we limited them to one shot on target, which is great defensive work for the whole 11.
“We were guilty of not being clinical enough in the final pass, the final opportunity and the keeper has pulled a worldy save off, with the rub of the green maybe we get the second.”
Exeter, who managed just one shot on target through top scorer Matt Jay, have now lost four out of their last five Sky Bet League Two matches and missed the chance to move back into the play-off places.
“They outplayed us in all aspects of that game today, they were better than us, they were quicker to the ball, more aggressive and used the ball better than we did,” said boss Matt Taylor.
“We were second in all departments, in and out of possession and it’s a frustrating one from my point of view but there’s a lot more men in the Port Vale team, not in terms of age but just in terms of the way they played, conducted themselves and went after that game.
“It was a nightmare start. As much as you can prepare a team for the expectations of any game, to gift them a goal like that was unforgivable.
“We were up against it after that. We can assess it in terms of what team we think we are but we were neither.”