Port Vale had victory taken away from them by a resilient Tranmere side and an awful display of refereeing on Saturday.
Manager John Askey kept faith with the same starting eleven which lost in the FA Cup against Kings Lynn and it paid dividends with a good first-half display.
After a cagey opening, it was the visitors who had the first real chance when Otis Khan crashed the ball against the woodwork from long range. Vale made Tranmere pay for that miss minutes later. Scott Burgess found David Worrall with a superb cross-field ball and when he passed to Tom Conlon in the box he was checked and the ref awarded a penalty. It looked a soft decision by the referee but the Valiants didn’t care as Conlon stepped up to slot the ball home from the spot.
On 23 minutes, Vale doubled their lead with a brilliant training ground corner routine. Conlon found Burgess who knocked it back for David Amoo to smash the ball home from the edge of the box. The Valiants could even have made it three on 37 minutes but the goal was disallowed for an earlier offence.
Askey’s side entered the break two goals to the good and with some excellent displays. Conlon caught the eye with his enterprise in the middle, Mitch Clark recovered from a slow start to cause problems with his pacy runs while Scott Brown was the model of composure at the back. However, the visitors were not to be underestimated as their high tempo game had troubled Vale’s defence at times.
Vale looked comfortable as the second period began but the game turned on a baffling decision to dismiss holding midfielder Luke Joyce on 51 minutes. It was a high challenge that looked like a yellow but the ref immediately produced a red card.
Vale’s ten men now struggled to contain Tranmere and after a decent Vale break, Tranmere countered to pull a goal back through James Vaughan. However, the Valiants were livid as it looked like their had been fouls on both Pope and Clark in the build-up.
John Askey brought on Devante Rodney for Tom Pope as he looked for pace up top and Vale looked to be riding their luck as Tranmere had a goal disallowed for a baffling decision that appeared to be a foul on Crookes. Undaunted, the visitors did draw level through another soft penalty decision. Legge was adjudged to have fouled in the box and Vaughan made no mistake from the spot-kick.
However, there was a twist in the tale when sub Rodney headed home from David Worrall’s excellent free-kick with 26 minutes remaining.
Could Vale hold on for a thrilling 3-2 win? Sadly, the answer was no. Vale brought on Manny Oyeleke as they tried to soak up constant Tranmere pressure but it was to no avail as in the six minutes of time added on the visitors scored twice – once through a close range effort from Woolery and then in the very last minute Morris curled in a brilliant winning goal.
It was a gutting result for Port Vale. Credit is due to Tranmere for their efforts and attacking play but this was a game that was marred by a series of awful decisions from the officials. Both penalties looked soft. The red card shown to Joyce looked harsh. The time added on was generous and to be fair to the visitors their “goal” which was disallowed on 66 minutes looked to be a perfectly decent effort. Referee Carl Brook has a lot to answer for.
On the positive side, Vale so nearly hung on with a resilient defensive display. David Amoo scored one of the goals of the season, Tom Conlon looked back to his best and Adam Crookes had a promising game at left-back. Despite those performances Vale were left empty handed thanks to the never say die efforts of the opponents and some rubbish refereeing.
Port Vale: Brown – Clark, Smith, Legge, Crookes – Joyce, Burgess, Conlon – Amoo (Oyeleke), Pope (Rodney), Worrall
Subs: Visser, Brisley, Cullen, McKirdy, Montano