19 May 2022

Port Vale prevail on penalties to reach play-off final against Mansfield

19 May 2022

Port Vale won a nerve-jangling penalty shootout 6-5 to beat Swindon and secure their place in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final.

James Wilson’s eighth-minute goal meant the tie was level at 2-2 on aggregate, while Valiants boss Darrell Clarke was sent off in the third minute of extra time after an altercation with Swindon player Dion Conroy.

Goalkeeper Aidan Stone was the home side’s hero with a fine save in the shoot-out in front of a bumper crowd of 11,669 at Vale Park, sparking some unseemly scenes amid a pitch invasion as the visiting players made for the tunnel.

Harry McKirdy and Ellis Iandolo blazed over as the visitors suffered heartache with a Wembley place within their grasp.

Clarke decided to make three changes to his starting side after their 2-1 defeat at the County Ground four days ago.

Kian Harratt, Malvind Benning and Jake Taylor were handed the chance to shine, while Aaron Martin, Harry Charsley and Ryan Edmondson dropped to the bench.

Swindon, meanwhile, remained unchanged as manager Ben Garner kept faith in the side who impressed in the first leg.

Wilson should have scored after just four minutes, but he wasted a glorious chance at the back post.

David Worrall whipped in a lovely cross but the usually reliable Wilson somehow missed the ball with the goal at his mercy.

Swindon were adamant they should have had a penalty moments later when Mandela Egbo’s cross looked to have struck the hand of Vale defender Benning, but referee Seb Stockbridge waved away the visitors’ protests.

Wilson then made sure he scored with a second bite of the cherry. Harratt crossed low from the left and Wilson made no mistake, unmarked at the back post.

And Valiants skipper Nathan Smith came within a whisker of doubling the hosts’ lead, but his sweet right-footed curler rattled the right upright.

French defender Mathieu Baudry rifled agonisingly over just after the hour mark, while Welshman Jonny Williams dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box.

Wilson had a powerful shot blocked inside the box and then blasted over the bar as he spurned another fine opportunity to score.

Smith headed wide with five minutes remaining and Wilson had a chance to win it in stoppage time, but his low left-footed free-kick was well-saved by alert Robins keeper Lewis Ward.

But then the home side lost their manager after he was dismissed for a needless altercation with Conroy by the dugouts.

Clarke tried to wrestle the ball off the defender to get play going after it had gone out for a throw-in.

However, Stockbridge had no hesitation in sending him to the stands and Conroy was booked for his part in the altercation, which resulted in a full-on scuffle between players from both sides.

Wilson fired a left-footed shot over in the second period of extra time, but penalties were going to decide this tussle.

And it was Vale who prevailed on spot-kicks in a dramatic finish.

Wilson, Charsley, skipper Tom Pett, Ben Garrity and James Gibbons all scored for the hosts, while Jack Payne, Ben Gladwin, Lewis Reed, Conroy and Egbo netted for the Robins.

However, Stone’s save from Josh Davison, McKirdy’s miss against his former club and Iandolo’s miss proved crucial.

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