Port Vale booked their place in the League Two play-off final by beating Swindon 6-5 on penalties after a 2-2 draw on aggregate in the second leg at Vale Park.
James Wilson – who had scored the Valiants’ late consolation in Sunday’s first leg – struck the only goal of the game (8) after an inexplicable miss moments earlier.
With Swindon unable to respond, his goal forced extra-time, during which Vale boss Darrell Clarke was sent off after an altercation with Town captain Dion Conroy on the touchline.
However, with no winner found in the extra 30-minute period, a shootout ensued and after Mal Benning fired in for the hosts, Ellis Iandolo blazed his penalty over the bar to send Vale to Wembley, where they will face Mansfield for a place in League One next Saturday.
How the shootout panned out…
- Wilson pen scored, Payne pen scored
- Worrall pen saved, Gladwin pen scored
- Edmondson pen saved, McKirdy pen missed
- Charsley pen scored, Reed pen scored
- Pett pen scored, Davison pen saved
- Garrity pen scored, Conroy pen scored
- Gibbons pen scored, Egbo pen scored
- Benning pen scored, Iandolo pen missed
The result was, however, marred by ugly scenes during a pitch invasion that followed conclusion of the match. Swindon boss Ben Garner said his players were “physically and verbally abused” by Port Vale fans who stormed the pitch.
Port Vale book their spot at Wembley after Vale Park epic
Port Vale scored late on in the first leg and, from the first whistle, it was clear they were looking to carry that momentum straight into the second with aggressive pressing putting Swindon under the cosh immediately.
They would have been rewarded for their intensity, too, had Wilson not managed to miscue his connection on a downward header into his path, which he proceeded to send wide of the right-hand post from two yards out.
At the other end, Swindon were denied a penalty despite Benning appearing to handle Mandela Egbo’s cross from the right and, within seconds Vale did get their deserved opener when David Worrall squared for Wilson, who swept in at the far post.
The Valiants came within a whisker of taking the lead in the tie when centre-back Nathan Smith showed his striking prowess and crashed a shot off the woodwork, before Kian Harratt tore into the visitors’ defence once more and laid a ball off to the far post, which Iandolo turned behind before Wilson could pounce.
Whatever Ben Garner said in his half-time team talk seemed to spur his players on, who returned to the pitch invigorated. The chances, however, did not follow. Mathieu Baudry leaned back and fired a spinning ball over the bar, while Egbo and Jonny Williams scuffed efforts wide.
That was, essentially, the sum of the action in what was a cagey second half, which meant a further 30 minutes was on the horizon. There was drama in the first five as Clarke came out of his technical area to try and prevent the ballboy from throwing the ball to Conroy, before squaring up to the defender, which forced referee Seb Stockbridge’s hand.
Neither team managed to find the breakthrough, which sent the tie to the lottery of the shootout. After Benning had fired in to make it 5-5 in sudden death, Iandolo stepped up to keep Swindon alive, but failed to do so as he blazed over the bar to seal the Robins’ fate.
Clarke: I’m sorry – my emotions got the better of me
Port Vale’s Darrell Clarke:
“I do want to apologise because I shouldn’t have done what I did on the touchline. My emotions got the better of me, so I apologised to Swindon and to Dion – good club, good player. I don’t know what came over me. I have had an emotional time and it is the first time I have been sent off.
“It’s hard to put it in words, the amount of love I’ve got for my staff, players and the owners. It is hard to say without sounding corny, but the support I’ve had since losing one of the dearest things to me in my life has been so unbelievable and overwhelming. It’s not for me, it’s for those people.
“We have got one more game to go against Mansfield, which is fitting because it’s where my eldest daughter came from. Nigel Clough’s a great man, they are a great club and it’s the town I was born in. An emotional day, but looking forward to the final.”
What the managers said…
Port Vale assistant Andy Crosby: “Amazing effort by the whole football club and an amazing performance tonight to beat a very, very good team. We prepared for penalties as much as we possibly could, we knew exactly what was going to happen in every scenario and credit to every single one of the players. We are delighted to get to Wembley – just one more game to go.
“We wanted to be aggressive and intense from the start to try and force them back, to try and get them on the back foot, to press really aggressively and really high and not let them get into any kind of rhythm, which we certainly didn’t in the first half. They then had a lot more of the ball after that without really creating a lot of chances. They are a fantastic passing team, but we tried to play the game how we do.
“I’m not sure about the comments from their captain before the game slagging us off a little bit and saying we are a long ball team et cetera and all their players are better than ours. Maybe not the brightest thing to say before the second leg of a game. I’m delighted for all of our players. We’ve got 10 days now to look forward to playing in a Wembley final.”
Swindon’s Ben Garner:
Port Vale will face Mansfield in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final at Wembley Stadium at 4pm on Saturday, May 28, in a match live on Sky Sports Football.
Meanwhile, Swindon will remain in the fourth tier for the 2022/23 season, which begins on the weekend of Saturday, July 30.