Ford United could have provided one of the most romantic stories of the first round of the FA Cup - a former works team striving to reach the second round for the first time in their history.
Instead, they showed that the Cup does not always reserve its cruellest twists for the favourite, as an own goal, with six minutes of extra time remaining, by Dean Chandler, meant the Essex side bowed out of the competition. That piece of ill fortune gave Port Vale a home tie against more non-League opposition, Scarborough, in 10 days' time.
Vale had barely looked like getting out of their own half during extra time. However, one break down the right-wing by Chris Birchall two minutes after he had come on as a substitute was enough to clinch the tie in the visitors' favour. He sent in a hopeful low cross that hit Chandler's back and left Jamie Lunan helpless in goal.
One reason that Vale had been hanging on was the sending off of another substitute, Ian Armstrong. He had only been on 10 minutes and had already been booked when, in the 90th minute, he was shown a straight red card, much to the fury of his manager, Brian Horton.
That dismissal had a twin effect. Vale found themselves pegged back to 1-1. With two out of five injury-time minutes played, Ford won a free-kick that, from 25 yards out, Glen Poole stroked home. It was a great goal and one fit to grace a greater stage than Ford's Oakside stadium, which nevertheless was able to boast a crowd that was 10 times greater than their usual Ryman Premier League attendances.
The first match between these two sides had ended 2-2, but the chances of this game being as open were slight, especially given Vale's cautious approach to this tie. The potential for a slip-up against opposition who were 74 places below Horton's men clearly led to a safety-first approach.
They were almost too careful as Sam Cooper was allowed to shoot from the edge of the area after just five minutes. But Vale gathered themselves and when Adrian Littlejohn cut the ball back from the byline Billy Paynter should have scored. The striker made amends for that glaring miss six minutes before the break, when he turned Chandler and struck his shot low into the net.
Ford United (5-3-2): Lunan; O'Sullivan (Reinelt, 90), Halle, Chandler, Perkins, Cooper; Fiddes, Edwards, Poole; Watson (Fenton, 70), Abraham. Substitutes not used: Wood, Patten, Sobers
Port Vale (4-4-2): Brain; Pilkington, Collins, Reid, Boyd; Briscoe, Cummins, Littlejohn (Armstrong, 81), Burns; Paynter, McPhee. Substitutes not used: Birchall, Delaney, Eldersman, Brown.
Referee: L Cable (Surrey).Reuse content