Port Vale 3-0 Mansfield Town match report: well, that wasn’t the way it’s supposed to be… where was the drama, the last-minute twists and turns we expect from a big Vale game?
Goals from Kian Harratt, James Wilson and the excellent Mal Benning earned Vale a comfortable Wembley play-off final win over Mansfield Town to seal promotion to League One.
Manager Darrell Clarke named an unchanged Port Vale side from the semi-final win over Swindon Town and in a nice touch, Clarke asked assistant Andy Crosby, who had stood in as manager this season, to lead the Vale side out.
However, the Valiants took their time to adjust to their surroundings and Mansfield had a great chance early on when a mix-up between Gibbons and Stone allowed Jamie Murphy a free header but it was directed right at Stone.
There was an emotional moment when both sets of fans united for a minute’s applause for Clarke, who had lost his daughter in February – a touching gesture which had been organised by opponents Mansfield.
Vale were starting to look more comfortable by then and the lively Harratt had already struck the post before he gave the Valiants the lead. Wilson pinged a superb ball to Benning and his cross was turned in by a stooping Harratt to put Vale 1-0 with twenty minutes played.
It got even better for Clarke’s side when Worrall stood the ball up for Ben Garrity to hit the bar with a header and the impressive Wilson was on hand to nod home his fourth goal in four game to put Vale 2-0 up with 24 minutes played.
The game looked up for Mansfield when Oli Hawkins was sent-off for a full-blooded challenge on Wilson. It was an idiotic challenge by the Mansfield man who had been booked only minutes later.
Vale were now in control against their ten man opponents but it wasn’t without more scares. Rhys Oates picked up a spill from Vale keeper Aidan Stone but Connor Hall was on hand to clear off the line. Vale countered with a Wilson free-kick which went just wide.
After the break, Vale continued to be in command and could arguably have scored more. Harratt and Charlsely both found the net only to be flagged offside before the Valiants made the game secure in the 85th minute. David Worrall skipped past his man and managed to hang the ball up for his fellow wingback Mal Benning whose cool volley found the back of the net.
The Valiants calmly played out the final minutes before the final whistle prompted mass delight both in the stands and on the pitch. The Vale had impressed on the big stage with Jake Taylor having one of his best games in midfield, wingbacks Worrall and Benning impressing and Harratt lively upfront but man of the match was James Wilson who was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch with his craft and vision.
A word for Mansfield Town at this point. Unlike other play-off opponents, Town conducted themselves with respect and dignity despite the game effectively being lost when Hawkins left the pitch. Manager Nigel Clough was clearly gutted but gracious at the end. The minute’s applause to Darrell Clarke was a charming touch. I am sure many Vale fans will be sympathising with Town fans (the same thing happened to us when ten man Vale lost at Wembley in 1993) and hoping, that like Vale, Mansfield bounce back with promotion next season. Good luck to a fine football club.
But back to the Vale and the culmination of a remarkable season. What a fantastic achievement… for Darrell Clarke in his first, full season and after so much personal anguish.. for Directer of Football David Flitcroft’s revamp of the entire football department… for the superb owners – the Shanahans…. for Andy Crosby, who stepped up during some of Vale’s darkest days… for loanees Ryan Edmondson and Kian Harratt – both so dedicated to the cause… for injured captain Tom Conlon who showed his dedication from the sidelines… for the rest of the squad who performed so well and for the 17,000 plus fans who will never forgot this day at Wembley.
And now you better believe us because the Vale are going up!Port Vale 3-0 Mansfield Town – Have your say on promotion
Port Vale: Stone; Gibbons, Smith, Hall; Worrall (Martin), Pett, Garrity, Taylor (Charsley), Benning; Wilson, Harratt (Proctor)
Subs: Covolan, Robinson, Edmondson, Amoo