Andy Crosby proud of team’s character as Port Vale snatch late win over Oxford
Port Vale boss Andy Crosby saluted the character of his team, and Alfie Devine’s coolness under pressure, after his team regrouped to snatch a winner deep into stoppage time in a dramatic 2-1 success at nine-man Oxford.
Alex Iacovitti’s 63rd-minute goal for Vale was cancelled out by Greg Leigh’s equaliser three minutes into time added on at the end.
That looked to be how the game would finish, with Oxford undoubtedly the happier with the result having had both Mark Harris and then Leigh sent off moments after his goal for a second yellow card.
However, in the game’s dying seconds, eight minutes into stoppage time, Fin Stevens fouled Ben Garrity and Devine stepped up to calmly convert the penalty to earn Vale a memorable victory.
Crosby said: “All credit to the players, it was a great response in the second half.
“In the first half we allowed a really good team to dominate the ball and couldn’t get out of that block.
“The sending-off of Harris allowed us to get a control of the game. We got ourselves in front from a set play, which we had spoken about pre-game, because we had looked to see if we could identify potential weaknesses they might have. We’re disappointed we couldn’t hold on to that.
“Their threat was mainly in transition and we knocked off a bit in the box, and then the game is looking like we have maybe lost two points.
“But then we find a great pass in the final third, Ben (Garrity) takes a lovely touch too when facing their goalie and gets brought down – and I’m thinking all three of our penalty takers have come off the pitch!
“I’m looking around and thinking ‘make a decision quick’ – and all credit to Alfie, to take that penalty in that pressurised situation says a lot about him and epitomises everything about my group.”
Oxford head coach Liam Manning admitted it was a difficult result to take, saying: “There’s huge frustration from my point of view.
“All credit to Port Vale for the win, but to me it was that we lost it.
“We have spoken a lot about behaviour and discipline and really that went out the window in the second half.
“I’ve seen the video of the Mark Harris incident and it does appear to be an elbow, so I’ve got no complaints about that. The ref’s performance, to my mind, contributed to all that.
“We showed spirit and intensity to get back into the game – you can’t then have another mad moment as we did.
“Let’s be honest, we don’t often train with nine men. It was an emotional afternoon for everyone.
“I was pleased with elements of the first half, when I thought we were in control, but in the second half we started too slowly.
“I’ve spoken with Mark (Harris) – we shouldn’t be giving the officials the opportunity to make those decisions. We shifted the momentum away from us with those sendings-off.
“Yes, you don’t want something like that, but it did happen and it’s then a question of how you respond. The main thing is that we stay focused.
“But let’s remember, we have had a terrific run of results and the biggest thing for me is remembering just how far we have come.”
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