Vale Through After Penalty Drama
Vale are through to the Quarter Finals of the JPT courtesy of a stirring second half fight back. Roared on by an impressive following of just under 1000 away supporters, the Valiants produced a thrilling come back after falling 2-0 down shortly after half time against their Staffordshire neighbours.
Vale`s altered line up started the brighter and the on loan Saddlers goalkeeper Karl Darlow needed to produce two fine stops inside the opening ten minutes to deny Tom Pope. However, Walsall gradually began to exert control over proceedings throughout the rest of the first period, with Vale, and in particular Chris Shuker, struggling to get to grips with Walsall`s extra man in midfield. A mistake, and then a foul by Richard Duffy on Florent Cuvelier gifted the home side the lead. The on loan Stoke midfielder picked himself up to convert coolly from the spot. More of that to come.
Will Grigg also capitalised on ponderous defending from Duffy to drive a low shot past Sam Johnson to make it two after 49 minutes. However, the Valiants are made of sterner stuff this season. Finding the tempo that makes them such a dangerous attacking proposition, Vale began to put the League One side on the back foot. The excellent Ryan Burge halved the deficit almost immediately, driving from midfield, before finding the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards.
No Vale game at the moment is complete without at least one goal from Tom Pope, and Sneyd Green`s finest duly obliged with a neatly taken goal following good link up play from Ben Williamson. Despite some fine stops from Johnson, who enjoyed a night to remember on his professional debut, Vale looked the far more likely winners in normal time. Substitute Louis Dodds have two great chances in stoppage time, being denied by the foot of the post, before Darlow produced another good save from close range.
With Vale`s dismal recent record in penalty shoot outs, there seemed little optimism in the away end. Given the abysmal quality from both sides, you can see why. Regular taker Jennison Myrie-Williams showed how it should be done, but those from Chris Shuker, Ryan Burge, Rob Taylor and Louis Dodds are best consigned to history. After blowing three chances to win the shootout, Johnson saved from his counterpart, before smashing home to send Vale one step closer to Wembley.
A pleasing aspect of the game for Vale boss Micky Adams would have been how his team were, for long periods, the better side against a team from a league above. Given that four regular first team players were missing, and three or four not at their best, it gives plenty of cause for optimism for the rest of the season. Up the Vale!