Tuesday’s match was soured by poor refereeing decisions as Sam Morsy was controversially sent-off and Vale threw away a two goal lead.
Micky Adams made two changes to his starting line-up with captain Doug Loft and in-form Ben Williamson coming in for Rob Taylor and Louis Dodds.
Vale first good chance came from a Myrie-Williams’ header which forced a good save from the keeper. Then Yates went close as Vale continued to press.
On the half-hour mark, Vale suffered a blow as skipper Loft was forced off and replaced by Rob Taylor. And Taylor made an instant impact as his cross reached Pope who bundled the ball home for his sixteenth goal of the season.
Strike partner Williamson almost made it two only for the Rochdale keeper to make another good save. And Rochdale nearly levelled things as Bobby Grant’s long-range shot unluckily smashed against the crossbar with Neal beaten.
Williamson was impressing on his rare start and he went close in the second-half from an Adam Yates’ ball.
On the hour mark, Vale thought they’s made the game safe as Pope scored a brilliant second goal after good work from strike partner Ben Williamson.
But the game took another twist as Sam Morsy was controversially sent-off minutes after Vale’s second goal. Morsy received a straight red card but the Rochdale players had crowded the referee after Morsy’s challenge and that appeared to influence the ref’s decision.
Vale brought on Darren Murphy to bolster their midfield but the Irishman lasted just a few minutes before being replaced by Kingsley James. And to compound Vale’s woes, Booby Grant pulled a goal back for Rochdale as the substitution was about to be made.
Vale’s ten men had to endure some scary moments as Rochdale tried to take advantage of their man advantage. Their luck started to run out as, with minutes remaining, the visitors levelled the scores when Andrew Tutte scored a well-worked equaliser.
The visitors nearly won it in injury time only for Chris Neal to pull off a good stop.
The result was rough justice for the Valiants who once again suffered inconsistent decisions from the matchday officials. And the post-match talking point will no doubt centre around whether Morsy deserved a straight red for his challenge or was the ref influenced by the mass protests by the visitors?
Vale: Neal, Yates, Davis, McDonald, Loft (Taylor), Myrie-Williams, Morsy, Burge, Vincent, Pope, Williamson (Murphy (James))
Subs: Johnson, Lloyd, Dodds, Shuker