Not even the most loyal of fans would have forecast a Vale victory this afternoon, especially on reviewing the team sheet and seeing Tom Pope miss out with a twisted knee, but one man’s misfortune is another’s gain and no one can say that Ricky Miller didn’t take his chance. As Miller sat down with the local press after the game, it was clear to see he’d left more than two well taken goals on the pitch as the Striker cut an exhausted figure, not the man that had severely dented Mansfield’s promotion charge.
All that said, it was the underdogs that started the game much the brighter, Worrall flashing an effort wide in the first minute and Vale playing a highline to press the Stag’s back into their own half at every opportunity, securing a series of corners along the way. But it was the visitors that had the first real chance on the quarter hour, good work down the Mansfield left, left Clarke exposed deep in his own box, yet the defender showed plenty of guile and his sliding tackle was timed perfectly to clear the danger.
The game had now opened up and Oyeleke really should have done better a few minutes later after a long free kick fell to him on the edge of the box, but the midfielder could only scuff his shot, and a golden opportunity was lost. This mistake seemed destined to be double moments later as Adjose burst past Legge and the big Vale Centre unceremoniously brought down the flying striker for a stone wall penalty. But cometh the hour, cometh the man and Vale were indebted to a fine save, Brown guessing correctly, diving full length to his left, and forcing the ball round the post for a corner.
This seemed to bring Vale back to life and Worrall might have done better on 22 minutes, Miller going down under pressure from the Stag’s defence, but managing to tee up Worrall, but his shot was high, and didn’t trouble Smith in the Mansfield goal. Vale continued to push forward, and Conlon was unlucky on 30 minutes after Oyleke won a free kick just outside the box. The young midfielder did everything right, got the ball up and down over the wall, but Keeper Smith had read it well and took a clean catch in the centre of his goal.
As the half drew to a close, its was the visitors that finally showed the form that had placed them in the promotion spots, forcing no less than six corners in the space of several minutes, but a combination of good defending and fine goalkeeping kept the Stag’s at bay and Vale went into the half time break level at 0-0.
Despite the visitors winning the first Corner of the second half, it was Vale that continued their high pressing and this perseverance was finally reward as Vale took the lead. A fine run from Miller across the two Mansfield centre backs was rewarded as he was freed into acres of Vale Park space. With no offside flag, Miller drove into the penalty box, jinked left, and side footed home, sending the Bycars into raptures.
Three minutes later, Miller doubled his, and the teams goal tally. A terribly sliced defensive clearance forced Smith into a fine save to his right, forcing the ball to his right, but the ball found it way to a flying Hannant, who drove the ball across the 6yd box, the ball deflecting to a waiting Miller, and he drove the ball through Keeper Smith and into the net to make it two nil.
At this stage, most people would have expected an onslaught from the visitors but on the most part Vale looked comfortable until good work down the Mansfield right produced a great cross and Ajose really couldn’t miss with the goal at his mercy.
As Vale rang the changes, including Miller departing to a standing ovation, the Valiants were finally forced to drop deep, but resolute defence, especially by Smith, managed to hold firm and Vale recorded their first home victory since late October.
Mark Glover-Jones managed to catch up with John Askey after the game.