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Mansfield 0-3 Port Vale: FLW report as Valiants return to League One in style

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Port Vale have returned to League One after five years away after they sealed promotion thanks to a 3-0 League Two play-off final victory against Mansfield Town at Wembley. 

The damage was done in the first half as goals from James Wilson and Kian Harratt were closely followed by Oli Hawkins’ red card and the Stags were never able to recover – with Mal Benning landing the final blow five minutes before full time.

Darrell Clarke continued his flawless record in play-off finals (three wins from three) and at Wembley (two wins in two) as a manager to crush his former club’s promotion dreams and take Vale back to the third tier for the first time since their relegation in 2016/17.

In the opposite dugout, Clough has now lost as many Wembley finals (two) as his father, Brian Clough, did in seven visits to the historic stadium and cut a frustrated figure on the touchline throughout as Mansfield – who were only above the bottom of the table on goal difference back in October – saw their hopes of an against the odds promotion evaporate in the London sunshine.

For both clubs, this was the culmination of not just 2021/22’s efforts but multiple years of building toward promotion to the third tier and with so much on the line, it was no surprise that Wembley nerves nearly gave us the opening goal inside 10 minutes.

Indecision from Vale defender James Gibbons and goalkeeper Aidan Stone allowed a cross to bounce unchallenged across the box but the shot-stopper rushed out in time to smother Jamie Murphy’s header.

Disaster averted, Clarke’s side began to pile on the pressure. Jake Taylor saw a strike come back off the inside of the post and then, in the 20th minute, Harratt got down low to head in Benning’s curving cross and give his side the lead.

Not content with just one, the Vale onslaught continued and four minutes later Wilson, whose build-up play was integral in the opener, nodded in a second.

David Worrall burst down the right to float a cross into Ben Garrity at the back post and though the midfielder’s header came back off the crossbar, Wilson rose highest to score his fourth in four games and send the fans in black and white to dreamland.

Things went from bad to worse for Mansfield 10 minutes before the break as Hawkins was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for a late and overenthusiastic challenge on Wilson just inside his own half.

But the Stags weren’t dead just yet and went within inches of halving the deficit thanks to Stone’s mistake in the 42nd minute. The Vale keeper’s fumble allowed Rhys Oates a chance from close range and only Connor Hall’s goalline clearance denied Clough’s side a route back into the game.

Late into the five minutes of first-half stoppage time Wilson whipped a free-kick just wide of the post – had that been two feet to the right then it would surely have been game over at halftime.

The break did little to change the game’s momentum, however, and Vale continued their search for a third by pinning Mansfield inside their own box for much of the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

The introduction of George Lapslie in the 54th minute helped Mansfield regain some control and they searched for a way back into the game, with Stephen McLaughlin firing a strike wide of the post after a corner.

But Vale continued to look the more dangerous and had the ball in the net twice in the ten minutes after the hour-mark – through Harratt and substitute Harry Charsley – but both times the offside flag kept Clough’s side, just about, alive.

Up the other end, a flying Nathan Bishop ensured his side’s two-goal lead remained intact by pushing a deflected strike behind before Oates’ shot bounced wide of the post with Mansfield beginning to throw players forward as the clock ticked down.

Their hopes were ended completely by Benning in the 85th minute. Worrall’s cross seem to hang in the air for an age, which allowed the left wing-back to surge onto the end of it and direct a sliding volley past Bishop – cue delirium in the Vale end.

That confirmed that Clarke’s side will play in the third tier next season after a dominant display in the nation’s capital while it’s another season in League Two for Mansfield, who didn’t do enough on the day.

FULL TIME: Mansfield Town 0-3 Port Vale


London-based sports journalist at Snack Media EFL accredited, graduate of New Associates and the University of Brighton

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Mansfield 0-3 Port Vale: FLW report as Valiants return to League One in style

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