Stockport County. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
(Port Vale win 2-1 on aggregate)
HAVING never been to Wembley in their 117-year history until now, Port Vale will play there twice in eight days after Martin Foyle's goal six minutes from time last night won them a place in the Second Division play-off final.
Vale were frustrated for much of the contest by an excellent performance from the Stockport goalkeeper, Neil Edwards, who they will encounter again in Saturday's Autoglass Trophy final. But Foyle ended their anxiety when he pivoted to meet Bernie Slaven's cross with a half-volley to beat Edwards and end Stockport's hopes of a second consecutive appearance in the play-off decider.
Even without Kevin Francis, the 6ft 7in striker who has scored 38 goals this season, Stockport's game plan mainly revolved around the high ball into the middle and Mike Flynn's long throws gave Vale's defenders something to think about before the pattern of the game became settled.
None the less, in the first half Stockport's only sniff of a goal resulted from a long-range shot, struck first time by Chris Beaumont from 25 yards, which skimmed the crossbar with Paul Musselwhite beaten.
But Edwards was by far the busier goalkeeper as Vale produced a strong start and built on it impressively. Having dealt comfortably with an early test provided by Paul Kerr, Edwards displayed agility and anticipation to keep out Andy Porter's strike after a pleasing move involving Kevin Kent and Ian Taylor.
Having occupied second place for 12 weeks, surrendering automatic promotion to Bolton only on the Tuesday before the final Saturday of the regular season, Vale's exposure to the ordeal of knock-out rounds seemed somewhat cruel, but the uncertainty was at least giving the spectators an extra measure of excitement.
As the hour passed, however, it was with growing frustration that Vale followers watched as Edwards hurtled from his line to block Foyle after a sloppy pass by Bill Williams. Slaven then directed two headers over the top. The away goal from the first leg offered some sort of comfort, but it was a tenuous advantage that one successful breakaway raid would cancel out and a good many hearts were in mouths when Musselwhite's handling error from Michael Wallace's cross almost let in Paul Williams.
Port Vale: Musselwhite; Aspin, Kent, Porter, Billing, Glover, Slaven, Van der Laan, Foyle, Kerr, Taylor. Substitutes not used: Cross, Sulley.
Stockport County: Edwards; Todd, Wallace, Flynn, Miller, B Williams, Gannon, Ward, P Williams, Beaumont, Ryan. Substitutes not used: Finlay, Preece.
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).