Football: Vale party gatecrashed

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The Independent Online
Blackpool. .2

Port Vale. .4

AS PORT VALE fans trudged away from Bloomfield Road they looked of a mind to throw themselves off the tower or jump from the big dipper.

For much of the season Vale had seemed destined to accompany Stoke into the First Division via the two automatic promotion places, but Bolton's impressive run changed all that and Vale went to Blackpool knowing that victory might not be enough to escape the play-offs. And so it turned out. Bolton refused to drop points at Burnden Park against Preston, and Vale must now try to do it the hard way.

They won in style, and for a few brief moments, after Bernie Slaven had given them a 67th- minute lead, they were on course for a promotion party.

Then news broke that Bolton had taken the lead, and ecstatic supporters were suddenly silenced. From that moment on, Vale's second-half fight-back counted for nothing, and the game became an irrelevance.

Yet Robin Van de Laan, Vale's Dutch midfielder, had given his side the ideal start after 26 minutes. But within 10 minutes Vale were 2-1 down. First, David Eyres capitalised on slack marking to slide the ball home. A dreadful mistake by Peter Billing then allowed Blackpool a second, scored by Dave Bamber.

Vale rallied and Paul Kerr burst through a pack of players to equalise after 65 minutes. Slaven's goal followed only two minutes later, but by the time Ian Taylor added a fourth, the cheers were, as they say, ironic.

Blackpool: L Martin; M Davies, M Cook, P Horner, N Bailey, I Gore, C Beech (A Watson, 80 min), T Sinclair, D Bamber, S Thornber, D Eyres. Sub not used: J Murphy. Manager: B Ayre.

Port Vale: P Musslewhite; N Aspin, C Sully (A Porter, 48 min), K Kent, P Billing, D Glover, B Slaven, R Van de Laan, N Foyle, P Kerr, I Taylor. Sub not used: N Cross. Manager: J Rudge.

Referee: A Dawson (Jarrow).

Goals: Van de Laan (0-1, 26 min); Eyres (1-1, 30 min); Bamber (2-1, 37 min); Kerr (2-2, 65 min); Slaven (2-3, 66 min); Taylor (2-4, 90 min).