After a spirited display, Vale Reserves’ suffered their first defeat of the season in the semi-final stage of the Central League Cup at Wigan’s Christopher Park training ground, losing 3-1 to Wigan with just 10 men, after keeper Rob Lainton was sent off.
It was an eventful opening 10 minutes. Vale began on the front foot with Barnett playing in Montano for a run up the left wing, he cut in towards goal but his cross was just too high for anyone to reach. Wigan then caught Vale twice in 2 minutes with quick moves through the defence but Lainton was out quickly on both occasions to save. With 8 minutes gone, Vale took the lead. Forrester won the ball in the middle of the park, advanced forward and played in Wilson, who neatly slipped the ball past the ‘keeper and into the corner of the net.
Shortly after, Forrester was shrugging his defender off and cut into the area before unleashing a shot that the ‘keeper saved with an outstretched foot. Montano then swung in a cross that was heading for Forrester before Lavercombe collected just before it reached him.
Then came the pivotal moment of the game. Vale keeper, Lainton, dived at the feet of Baningme and won the challenge, but the ball rolled past him and as Baningme ran past Lainton to put the ball in the net, the keeper appeared to pull him down. The referee pointed to spot and also gave Lainton a red card, with Vale being forced to sacrifice Wilson to bring on Slinn to face the kick. Left back Maffeo stepped up to Slinn, and left him with no chance to bring the game all square.
As Vale re-organised, Wigan’s young and fast team took advantage and had a couple of half chances from dangerous crosses. Vale then had the final chance of the half as Montano’s shot struck a defender on the head and flew away for a corner. The corner saw Davis rise highest to glance his header just the wrong side of the post.
Vale began the second half well and looked capable of restoring their lead. Chances fell to Middleton and Forrester but resulted in nothing. Despite the chances for Vale, Wigan took the lead 12minutes in the second half, as a shot that Slinn had covered took a deflection off Danny Pugh’s heel to wrong foot him and rest in the near corner of the net.
The Valiants switched Barnett up front at this stage to give the lone Forrester some support, but this left them short at the back and Wigan almost got a third as Culshaw’s shot looked to be a certain goal until Calverley appeared to block the ball on the line and then affect the clearance. Harness then had a good shot saved by Lavercombe before Wigan extended their lead with just 20 minutes to go.
Slinn, who had been having a good game, made an excellent save from Malumo but the ball flew out to the edge of the area where McGuffie was on hand to thread the ball back through the defenders and into the far corner. Forrester was then replaced by Benns, after appearing to pick up a slight injury.
Vale kept pressing with Montano having a shot deflected for a corner but it was Slinn who made the save of the day as he ensured McGuffie did not add a second from an excellent free kick. The result ended Vale’s journey in the cup, as Wigan go forward to meet Mansfield in the final of the Northern League Cup.
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Dan Lavercombe, Tylor Golden, Victor Maffeo, Jamie Cotter, Adam Long, Anthony Plant, Mitchell Culshaw, Will McGuffie, Mwiya Malumo, Joe Gelhardt (Charlie Jolley 64), Divin Baningme.
SUB NOT USED: Theo Roberts,Bradley Roberts, Joe Downey, Scott Smith.
PORT VALE: Rob Lainton, Mike Calverley, Danny Pugh, Harry Middleton, Joe Davis, Tyrone Barnett, Marcus Harness, Chris Regis, Donovan Wilson (Joe Slinn 22), Anton Forrester (Harry Benns 70), Christian Montano.
SUB NOT USED: James Steele, Matty Ward, Luke Dennis.