Dior Angus scored his first goal for the club on Saturday afternoon, but it was not enough to prevent Vale slipping to defeat in their final home game of the season against Carlisle United.
His strike had given Neil Aspin’s men a lead going into the break, but Ashley Nadesan and Hallam Hope turned the match around in the second half to send the Cumbrians home with all three points.
With Vale having secured their Football League status last weekend with a draw at Mansfield Town, the manager decided to hand Angus and Dan Turner starts, as well as naming Harry Benns amongst the substitutes.
It was the visitors who looked more threatening early on, however, as Mike Jones almost found Nadesan at the far post with a dangerous cross on six minutes. Another attack just 60 seconds later saw a low delivery flash beyond a black shirt, this time from Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
Vale carved out their first real attack of the game on 24 minutes as Ben Whitfield did well down the right wing, but his looped cross towards Tom Pope was claimed by Jack Bonham in the Carlisle goal. Pugh then almost picked out the striker two minutes later with an audacious pass from midfield, but the ‘keeper was alert to the danger once more.
The deadlock was broken on 33 minutes, however, and it was the Valiants who got the opening goal courtesy of Angus. Neat play between Pope and Whitfield started a counter attack, and the latter found Turner in space. His shot was well saved by Bonham, but Angus nodded home the rebound before wheeling away in celebration.
Going ahead seemed to lift the atmosphere around Vale Park, and just three minutes later, the home crowd were almost off their feet again as Pope went close. Turner found him with a pinpoint cross, but the striker’s downward header was held at the second attempt by the away ‘keeper.
Keith Curle opted to make a change at half-time as Richie Bennett replaced Campbell-Ryce, and he almost made an immediate impact three minutes into the half as he hooked an effort just wide from 12 yards. Mark Ellis then forced Sam Hornby into a save almost immediately afterwards, but the Vale goalkeeper gathered it comfortably.
However, with 51 minutes played, Carlisle levelled proceedings with a well taken goal. It looked as if the danger had gone when Gary Liddle’s cross deflected and looped into the air, but Nadesan got underneath it to send a sweetly struck volley into the top corner from just inside the area.
Up the other end seven minutes later, the Valiants had what looked like a strong penalty shout turned away by the referee as Angus went down under a challenge. Whitfield then created some space for a shot as the hosts played on, but his effort flew over the bar from 12 yards.
Pope then attempted an optimistic chipped shot on 69 minutes after pouncing on a misplaced Bonham clearance, but it sailed wide of the far post. With 20 minutes left to play, the game swung Carlisle’s way as Hope poked home a cross from Jamie Devitt at the far post just minutes after coming on as a substitute.
As the game entered the final stages, Antony Kay was dismissed following a coming together with Devitt and the midfielder will now miss the final game of the season away to Cambridge United next weekend. That proved to be the last talking point of the afternoon as Vale Park’s last game of the season came to an end.
Port Vale: Hornby, Gibbons, Smith, Howkins (Howe 43), Pugh, Whitfield, Kay, Hannant, Angus (Calveley 62), Turner (Barnett 76), Pope ©.
Unused Substitutes: Boot, Davis, Tonge, Benns.
Carlisle United: Bonham, Grainger © (Hope 66), Joyce, Liddle, Parkes, Jones, Devitt, Campbell-Ryce (Bennett 45), Ellis, Hill, Nadesan (O’ Sullivan 78).
Unused Substitutes: Stockton, Miller, Brown, Stockton, Twardek.
Attendance: 5,163 (540 away)