Port Vale striker Tom Pope has been struggling with a hernia problem that might soon require surgery, according to BBC Sport.

Pope, 32, is Vale’s top scorer this season, with 16 goals, 14 of which have come in League Two.

But, ahead of Saturday’s trip to bottom club Barnet, Vale boss Neil Aspin admitted he has a decision to make.

Aspin said “In terms of training, he’s going to be able to do very little. We have to decide whether we can risk him on Saturday.”

Pope’s autumn form helped Aspin’s side turn things around after a poor start to the season.

However, since the 4-0 home win over leaders Luton Town on 30 December, Vale have not won in nine games in 2018.

And they will go into this Saturday’s game just six points above Barnet and five ahead of 23rd-placed Chesterfield.

It is the first of two key successive away games against relegation rivals for Vale, who follow the trip to Barnet with a visit to 20th-placed Grimsby Town on 10 March.

Known as a hero by many Vale supporters, Tom Pope wouldn’t be far off legend status at Vale Park as the target man this is his second permanent spell with the club.

His four previous years with Vale saw him win one promotion, one League Two Player of the Season award and two Player of the Year awards before his departure to Bury. Just a couple of years later, the 31-year old is back in a Vale shirt after being signed by former gaffer, Michael Brown, in the summer of 2017.

After being brought up around the local area and a supporter of the Valiants himself, ‘Popey’ is another player who has made a significant impact this season.

Port Vale’s winless runs continues after an entertaining stalemate with Newport County at the weekend. Vale came closest when Michael Tonge struck the post before the interval but could not breach Newport.

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