Goals from Scott Quigley and Danny Pugh ensure Port Vale progress through the group stages of The Checkatrade Trophy with a perfect three wins out of three, winning 2-1 at The Bescot Stadium.
Quigley put the Vale ahead with just four played, before Pugh won the game for Aspin’s side with half an hour to go to take all the points back to Burslem.
Despite Walsall dominating the majority of the ball in the opening few minutes of the game, it was Vale who would break the deadlock with just four minutes on the clock. A huge challenge from James Gibbons down the right-hand side led to the full-back bounding down the right wing. Gibbons played through Iris Kanu who swung in a dangerous cross to the middle of the box and Scott Quigley got in front of his man to direct the ball into the far corner, giving The Valiants an early lead at The Bescot Stadium.
Quigley found the net again with 22 minutes played, however the linesman’s flag went up to rule the goal offside. It all started with Kanu who battled to win the ball back in the middle of the park before finding Louis Dodds. The forward took a wicked strike at goal that tested Chris Dunn in the Walsall net, however the stopper could only parry to Quigley who would tap in from a couple of yards – Vale would’ve been two goals to the good but for the assistant referee’s flag.
For all of Vale’s good play in the first-half, The Saddlers were back on level terms through Connor Johnson with just 30 seconds to play until half time. Luke Leahy swung in a free-kick that Vale struggled to deal with as the ball rattled around Sam Hornby’s penalty box. Failing to clear, Johnson capitalised and poked home from close range to bring Walsall back into the cup tie, sending the teams down the tunnel with the score all square.
In similar fashion to the opening five minutes of the first-half, Walsall struggled in the opening stages of the second as The Saddlers goal-scorer, Connor Johnson, was shown a second yellow card and dismissed from the proceedings after pulling down Quigley, with the Vale forward one-on-one with Dunn in the Walsall net. Neil Aspin’s side began to dominate the ball following the dismissal.
With 65 minutes played, Aspin’s side made The Saddlers pay for going one man down by scoring their second goal of the game. Louis Dodds lively on the left-hand side picked out Danny Pugh in the middle of the box, who swivelled and placed into the bottom corner to give Vale the lead at The Brescot Stadium.
The game was almost all over on 70 minutes, as Dunn fluffed a clearance directly to Vale’s number 25 Lewis Hardcastle who attempted an audacious chip from around 25 yards. The effort looked in all the way but just drifted wide of The Saddlers post to spare Dunn’s blushes.
With just over five minutes play, history was made as Nelson Agho came onto replace Idris Kanu, becoming The Valiants youngest ever player to play for the first-team, a brilliant advert for the Port Vale academy.
Aspin's side saw out the victory comfortably and can now look forward to a home draw in the cup competition.
Walsall: Dunn, Leahy (Devlin, 45), Morris, Ismail (Kinsella, 57), Ferrier, Johnson, Fitzwater, Wilson, Gordon (Parker, 75), Ronan, Bates
Unused Subs: Roberts, Guthrie, Cook, McSkeane
Port Vale: Hornby, Gibbons, Montano, Kay (Daniels, 65), Rawlinson, Quigley, Kanu (Agho, 84), Dodds, Vassell, Conlon (Pugh, 45), Hardcastle
Unused Subs: Brown, Clark
Attendance: 878 (64 visiting supporters)