Football: Saints are humiliated by Slaven: Widdrington sent off as Port Vale prevail

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Port Vale. . . .1

Southampton. . .0

SOMETHING stirs in the Port Vale psyche when the FA Cup comes around. Their giantkilling ability served the Second Division side splendidly again in last night's third-round replay at rain-lashed Vale Park, a goal by Bernie Slaven reducing managerless Southampton's season to a struggle for Premiership survival.

The clubs' meeting at The Dell 10 days earlier had been a bitter affair in which Dave Beasant, the Saints' goalkeeper, pursued Slaven across the pitch after a last-minute incident. Beasant failed to catch the former Republic of Ireland striker on that occasion, and enjoyed no more success with his 18th-minute shot off the underside of the bar.

The legacy of acrimony did not surface until four minutes from time, when Southampton's Tommy Widdrington was sent off for a two-footed challenge on John Jeffers. The midfielder's exit made the visitors' hopes of forcing extra-time all the more improbable, which must have been a relief to the Vale groundsman, not to mention John Rudge's team.

Vale, for whom Robin van der Laan also hit the woodwork with an 83rd-minute header, now receive Wolves in the fourth round. Considering the quagmire conditions - which were reminiscent of the day in 1988 when Vale knocked out Terry Venables's Tottenham - the entertainment was surprisingly good. Southampton enjoyed the greater share of possession without forcing Paul Musselwhite into a save worth the name, while Vale made more of limited opportunities.

The decisive moment followed a prolonged bout of sparring during which both sides struggled to come to terms with the conditions. Vale's Dean Stokes, over-hitting a back pass to avoid it sticking in the mire, had just come uncomfortably close to scoring when Kevin Kent broke down the left. Steve Wood missed his centre, allowing Slaven to pounce for his eighth goal of the season.

As if to compound Southampton's misery, the former Middlesbrough striker was playing only because of an injury to Martin Foyle. Vale were also without Rudge's pounds 1m-rated discovery, Ian Taylor, though his replacement, Andy Porter, drew the save of the night with a 20-yard drive which Beasant tiped over 12 minutes into the second half.

In between Slaven's goal and Beasant's acrobatics, Matthew Le Tissier sent a speculative long-range volley wide while Wood narrowly missed the target with a diving header from Simon Charlton's free-kick.

Southampton's best chance, however, had arrived in the 31st minute when they cleared Kent's corner with most of the Vale players stranded in their penalty area. Le Tissier sent Widdrington surging through the centre, whereupon Musselwhite charged out of his area in an attempt to intercept. The Southampton man rounded the keeper, only to find that Stokes had covered back to dispossess him before he could shoot.

Port Vale (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Aspin, Swan, Glover, Stokes; Kent, Porter, Van der Laan, Jeffers; Cross, Slaven. Substitutes not used: Sandeman, Heald, T Wood (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Beasant; Kenna, Monkou, S Wood, Charlton; Dodd (Banger, 66), Allen (Bennett, 81), Widdrington, Le Tissier; Maddison, Dowie. Substitute not used: Andrews (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).

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