4 May 1993.
Port Vale (h)
Exeter City 1 Port Vale 1.
Tuesday 4 May 1993.
EXETER : Miller, White, Brown, Bailey, Daniels, Whiston (Minett, 58), Bond, Moran, Jepson, Storer, Hodge. Sub not used: McIntyre.
PORT VALE: Musselwhite; Aspin, Sulley, Porter, Swan (Kent, 61), Glover, Slaven, Van der Laan, Cross (Foyle, 57), Kerr, Taylor.
Referee: R Hamer (Bristol).
Bookings: Bond (Exeter) Van der Laan, Slaven, Porter (Vale).
Shots/headers on target:
Port Vale 5
Corners: Exeter 4, Vale 4.
Vale face a tall order as dream is shattered
By Chris Harper
(Photo: Steve Bould)
AUTOMATIC promotion that, for so long has been within Vale's grasp, could slip through their fingers in the last few days of the season. On a night when the script fell apart Vale surendered the second place they have occupied for almost three months to Bolton and face a tall order to win it back. The ball is not longer in Vale's court. Even victory at Blackpool in their last game on Saturday would not now take them up unless the unimaginable happened and Bolton failed to beat relegation threatened Preston at Bunden Park
Vale have done little wrong but they have finally been overtaken by Bolton's exceptional run in which they have won 14 of their last 17 games.
Port Vale would have gone up if they had won at Exeter and Bolton had failed at home to the champions Stoke but results don't come to order. Indeed, Vale would have suffered an even worse fate but for Paal Kerr's dramatic late equaliser with a penalty that at least still keeps them in with a shout. Vale's disappointment at bringing home only a draw was matched by Exeter's frustration that spilled over into ugly scenes at the final whistle.
Referee Bob Hamer's decision to award the 89th minute spot kick robbed Exeter of the victory that would have guaranteed the Second Division football next season. Home manager Alan Ball had to be restrained as he made straight for Mr Hamer who appeared to go down under siege from angry home fans before he could be rescued by police. The scenes were far removed from the joyous occasion of Vale's last visit to St James' Park a couple of weeks earlier when a 1-1 draw was enough to take them to Wembley for the Autoglass Trophy final
This time barely half the number of Vale supporters made the trek to Deven even though the match was at least as important if not more so. Manager John Rudge had hoped his team would be rather more relaxed but again the difficult nature of a well grassed pitch probably hindered Vale's style. Rudge, though, was disappointed with the performance. He said: "In the first half we were content to be comfortable. I don't think we looked in any danger but we didn't push people forward enough to create them problems. Rudge felt that Martin Foyle had been fouled for the face-saving penalty but he said "Rarely does a referee give a decisice like that at that stage of the game, especially against the home side." For a game Vale had to win they were boosted by the retum of Chris Sulley and the inclusion of Peter Swan and Robin van der Laan who had both retired injured from the previous game against Mansfield a weck earlier. In Swan's case it must have been more of a gamble which backfired when the big defender, who has been struggling for fitness for wveral weeks, lasted only hour. By that time Vale were a goal down despite having looked the better side up to half time even though they lacked devilment. Nicky Cross tested Miller in the opening half minate with a curler from the edge of the box and van der Laan rose well to meet a free kick from Dean Glover only to send his header across the face of goal. Tame Exeter who had failed to win any of their previous six home games, offered little in reply. Potential danger man John Hodge on the left wing hooked a shot on to the top netting but Vale needed to step up a gear on the restart, especially with Bolton leading by their early goal against Stoke. Instead, it was Exeter who went in front on 49 minutes, Vale were trapped offside and when Miller belted the free kick upfield Ronnie Jepson ficked the ball on and Steve Moran ghosted in behind the Vale backline to nudge the ball wide of Paul Musselwhite's left hand. It was to be only Exeter direct hit yet it was almost good enough to secure the victory they needed as badly as Vale. In the end it was perhaps a generous decision by Mr Hamer in the penultimate game of his League career that rescued Vale from defeat. Sulley flighted the ball towards Foyle who was pushed in the back by Daniels in the aerial challenge and ice-cool Kerr slotted home his 12th goal of the season.