Port Vale bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup on Remembrance Sunday, with goals from George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch securing Sunderland’s progression into the second round. Tom Pope did offer the Valiants a lifeline during the first half, but Neil Aspin’s men couldn’t translate a spirited second-half performance into a result.
It took just 36 seconds for the deadlock to be broken, but the goal fell in Sunderland’s favour as they took an early lead. Honeyman managed to find space on the edge of the area before slotting a finish beyond the reaches of Scott Brown and into the bottom corner.
After conceding, the Valiants did respond well and they worked an opening with nine minutes played. Some neat build-up eventually found its way to Pope in a wide area and he was able to find Ben Whitfield with a low cross, but he couldn’t steer his effort on target under pressure.
Sunderland were the next to create a shooting opportunity, and they made the most of it to double their advantage on 19 minutes. Jerome Sinclair held the ball up inside the area before rolling a pass into the path of Gooch, and the midfielder powered the resulting strike past Brown from 18 yards.
With a two-goal deficit to try and claw back, Neil Aspin opted to change the system on half an hour, with Manny Oyeleke making his return from injury to replace Theo Vassell. Five minutes later he made an immediate impact, teeing up Pope with a perfectly weighted pass, and the striker found the net with aplomb to spark wild celebrations amongst the home supporters.
Following the restart, it was Vale who looked the more threatening in the opening exchanges and a Leon Legge long throw-in caused havoc on 47 minutes. Nathan Smith and Oyeleke then both saw efforts blocked before Pope took aim, but his low shot was deflected behind for a corner via the outstretched leg of a defender.
As the Vale supporters responded by creating a vociferous atmosphere, it almost spurred the players on to find an equaliser with 57 minutes played. Luke Joyce prodded the ball into Whitfield and the midfielder skipped past two defenders before letting fly from inside the box, but his strike flashed an inch or so wide of the near post.
Pope then headed one over the bar after connecting with a Whitfield cross at the back post on 61 minutes, but the Vale players were left furiously protesting less than 60 seconds later. Luke Hannant went down under a challenge inside the area following some neat footwork, but the referee, Anthony Backhouse, was unmoved.
As the game wore on both sides battled for possession, but it was the Black Cats who created the next clear-cut opportunity of the afternoon. Aiden McGeady was threaded through on goal via a Honeyman pass, but he could only find the hands of Brown who did well to keep the ball in his grasp.
Vale’s goalkeeper was then forced into action with 79 minutes on the clock as he kept out a strike from Honeyman, and the hosts almost got themselves back on level terms through Pope two minutes later. The ball fell to the forward inside the box and he attempted to chip the ball over Jon McLaughlin, but he couldn’t quite muster enough power and Sunderland cleared.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, Luke Joyce, Leon Legge, Tom Pope ©, Luke Hannant, Connell Rawlinson, Nathan Smith, Theo Vassell (Manny Oyeleke 30’), Tom Conlon (Cristian Montano 70’), Mitch Clark, Ben Whitfield (Ricky Miller 80’).
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Antony Kay, Lewis Hardcastle, Louis Dodds.
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Adam Matthews, Chris Maguire (Max Power 71’), Dylan McGeouch, George Honeyman ©, Lynden Gooch (Luke O’Nien 81), Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin, Reece James, Jerome Sinclair (Josh Maja 64’), Aiden McGeady.
Unused Substitutes: Robbin Ruiter, Bryan Oviedo, Glenn Loovens, Alim Ozturk.
Attendance: 7,238 (1,615 away).