Port Vale v Walsall
At Vale Park
Sunday 8th May 2016
Attendance: 8,595 including 3,359 visiting supporters
Vale slumped to an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Walsall in the final game of the season as the Saddlers finished off their League One season in style.
Vale didn’t look too bad in the opening twenty minutes, but then Walsall struck twice in the space of two minutes midway through the first half, then added another seven minutes before half time.
Further goals for the visitors during a four-minute second half spell wrapped things up to spoil things for the home supporters, who were hoping Vale could turn it on in the final fixture of the season.
Rob Page made two changes to the side which lost at Scunthorpe in Vale’s previous fixture with Ajay Leitch-Smith coming in to replace Theo Robinson and Remie Streete returning to the side after pulling out in the warm-up at Glanford Park.
The visitors, already certain of a play-off place, need nothing less than a win to stand any chance at all of automatic promotion, and even then they needed already-relegated Doncaster Rovers to do them a favour against Burton Albion.
The Saddlers almost got off to the perfect start when skipper Adam Chambers hit a long ball over the Vale defence for Tom Bradshaw to chase with just thirty seconds on the clock.
Jak Alnwick came racing off his line but he could do nothing to revent the Walsall striker from getting in a shot, but thankfully for the Vale it flew high over the crossbar.
Vale settled down quickly after that and pressed the visitors deep inside their own half, but Saddlers’ ‘keeper Neil Etheridge had little to do.
That wasn’t the cas eat the other end, where Alnwick had to be at his best, diving sharply to his right to push away a fierce shot from Kieron Morris for a corner kick.
Sam Foley, impressive in the middle of the park, went close to getting his name on the scoresheet with a piledriver in the 20th minute.
The shot produced an equally impressive save from Etheridge, who just got enough on the ball with his fingertips to touch it over the bar.
Vale were having the better of things, there can be no denying that, and the home crowd responded accordingly, getting right behind the lads.
But the visitors waited patiently for their chance and went close when Demetriou‘s thirty yard drive struck the crossbar with Alnwick well beaten.
GOAL:A minute later Walsall went in front when Alnwick blocked an effort from Chambers but Paul Downing was on hand to put the loose ball away from close range.
GOAL:Vale had hardly had time to catch their breath when the visitors struck again just two minutes later, this time it was Tom Bradshaw who did the damage.
Vale had appealed for a penalty when Ben Purkiss appeared to be felled inside the area, but the referee, who was well positioned, waved play on.
GOAL:Walsall increased their lead in the 38th minute when Anthony Forde, all of 35 yards from goal, hit an absolute screamer into the top corner of the net, with Alnwick unable to get anything on it.
On the stroke of half time Forde tries his luck again from a similar distance, but this time Alnwick did well to save.
Vale made a change at the beginning of the second half as the manager decided to go back to four-four-two. Sam Kelly came on to replace Ryan McGivern.
In the 56th minute Vale made a second substitution with the introduction of Adam Yates, who came on to replace Remie Streete.
Walsall threatened a couple of times in the opening twenty minutes of the second half without increasing their lead, but they were already well in command of things.
JJ Hooper almost pulled a goal back for the Valiants in the 65th minute with a close range back postheader, which Etheridge somehow pushed over for a corner.
GOAL:Two minutes later Walsall increased their lead when Forde was allowed to run into the box and guide the ball past Alnwick.
Vale made their final substitution in the 70th minute when midfielder Michael O’Connor came off, with Byron Moore coming off the bench to take his place.
GOAL:A minute later it became embarrassing, as the visitors hit their fifth goal, this time another effort from long range was enough to beat Alnwick, with Sam Mantom getting his name on the scoresheet.
Bradshaw spurned the chance to hit a sixth when he met a cross from the right with a volley from six yards, but lifted the ball well over the crossbar.
PORT VALE: Jak Alnwick, Ben Purkiss, Remie Streete, Ryan McGivern, Richard Duffy, Carl Dickinson, Michael Brown, Michael O’Connor, Sam Foley, JJ Hooper, Ajay Leitch-Smith. SUBS: Ryan Boot, Chris Birchall, Adam Yates, Sam Kelly, Byron Moore, Theo Robinson, Dan Turner
WALSALL: Neil Etheridge, Jason Demetriou, James O’Connor, Paul Downing, Adam Chambers, Tom Bradshaw, Romaine Sawyers, Anthony Forde, Rico Henry, Milan Lalkovic, Kieron Morris. SUBS: Andrew Taylor, Sam Mantom, Craig MacGillvray, Matt Preston, Jordan Cook, Isaiah Osbourne, Jordy Hiwula