Gareth Owen is battling to be fit for Port Vale`s season-defining clash at home to neighbours Shrewsbury.

The influential centre-back missed the 2-1 victory over Notts County and last weekend`s heavy 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth with a hip/back problem.

He again sat out training at the start of this week but it is hoped he will recover in time to be in contention.

Should Owen make it then he will likely come back in to partner John McCombe at the heart of defence with Lee Collins, Adam Yates and Kris Taylor battling for the two full-back slots.

Captain Tommy Fraser picked up an ankle injury in training on Tuesday and is a doubt, although he has only been on the bench of late, while midfielder Anthony Griffith is one booking away from an automatic three-match ban which would rule him out of the play-offs should the club make it.

To reach the end-of-season showdown, ninth-placed Vale must beat Shrews and hope two of Bury, Dagenham or Morecambe drop points.

Shrewsbury will check on the fitness of Dave Hibbert.

Town`s top scorer missed last weekend`s 3-2 home defeat by Morecambe with a slight Achilles problem and is again a doubt, with Kris Bright coming in to start Stuart Delaney`s first match as caretaker boss following the sacking of Paul Simpson.

With a top-seven finish out of sight, goalkeeper Chris Neal was handed his first start since November. He will again take his place between the sticks at Vale Park after on-loan number one David Button was this week recalled by parent club Tottenham.

Jamie Cureton will not figure despite the fact his loan spell doesn't end until after Saturday's clash.

Captain Graham Coughlan (thigh) and striker Jake Robinson (ligament damage) returned to the bench last weekend after spells on the sidelines and they will be hoping for involvement once again.

Midfielder Craig Disley (broken ankle) has been back in training this week and will continue to be assessed and, if he can prove his fitness, he could yet make the bench. But striker Nathan Elder (knee) will be out for six to nine months.

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