Port Vale . . . . . .1
AFTER finishing 17 points ahead of Stockport County in the Second Division table, Port Vale probably feel they have already demonstrated their greater right to the third promotion spot. They showed it again in the first leg of the play-off semi-final, dominating for long spells and squandering a string of chances.
County, who only narrowly squeezed into the play-off frame, were handicapped by the absence of the division's leading scorer, the suspended Kevin Francis, but his replacement by another tall striker, Paul A Williams suggested they were unlikely to change their reliance on a big target man. They bombarded the Vale penalty area and one of a succession of long throws by Michael Flynn earned them a penalty after five minutes when Dean Glover was judged to have held down Alan Finley, and Jim Gannon scored from the spot.
But once Vale settled, their approach, as well as their record, suggested they were the worthier of elevation. Nottingham Forest they are not, but their willingness to build patiently from the back, and the pace and flair of Bernie Slaven up front showed they have some of the equipment they will need at the higher level.
As they assumed control in the first half a reflex save by Neil Edwards denied Andy Porter, and Martin Foyle dragged his shot wide from the resulting corner.
But after 25 minutes another corner brought the equaliser. Ian Taylor met it on the edge of the box with a powerful header and Glover diverted it past Edwards.
County rarely found the pace or skill to trouble Vale's fairly ponderous back-four, and though Paul Musselwhite tipped Finley's header over his crossbar, it was Vale who created most of the subsequent chances. Slaven, Paul Kerr and Peter Ward were all off target and Robin Van Der Laan's spectacular overhead kick flashed narrowly wide.
Stockport mounted a late rally and Taylor had to head off his own goal- line from the substitute David Miller's first touch, but it is difficult to see Vale failing to improve on this result in the two other meetings between the sides this week - the second leg, and the Autoglass Trophy final at Wembley on Saturday.
Stockport County: Edwards; Todd, Wallace, Quinn, B Williams, Finley, Gannon (Miller, 80), Ward, P A Williams, Beaumont, Ryan (Duffield, 80).
Port Vale: Musselwhite; Aspin, Sulley (Kent, 70), Porter, Billing, Glover, Slaven, Van Der Laan, Foyle, Kerr, Taylor. Substitute not used: Cross.
Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).Reuse content