Tom Pope made history on Saturday afternoon as 10-man Port Vale came from behind to beat Northampton Town at the PTS Academy Stadium, with the striker firing in his 100th goal for the club to seal all three points in Sky Bet League Two.
The Valiants had fallen behind early on as Sam Hoskins squeezed a strike into the back of the net, but David Worrall started the revival on the stroke of half-time with a deft finish that beat David Cornell.
John Askey’s men were searching for their third victory in the month of March, but they got off to a slow start and they found themselves a goal down inside five minutes. Northampton created the opportunity via a short corner routine, and Hoskins found the decisive touch to beat Scott Brown from close range after a brief scramble inside the area.
As the Valiants attempted to get back on level terms, they created a chance themselves with 13 minutes on the clock as Manny Oyeleke broke forward. He showed great footwork before finding Tom Conlon who skipped past his marker, but the midfielder was only able to lift his strike over the crossbar from 20 yards.
Up the other end seven minutes later, the hosts looked to make the most of another set piece situation as David Buchanan floated a dangerous delivery into the box. Ash Taylor diverted the ball back across the face via his head, but Hoskins’ stab towards goal was just too high.
Northampton should’ve doubled their lead after 34 minutes as Marvin Sordell threaded a pinpoint pass through to Jack Bridge who evaded the offside trap. He then took aim with just the goalkeeper left to beat, but he dragged his shot wide and into the side-netting.
Mitch Clark and Leon Legge combined in the attacking third for Vale almost immediately afterwards as they profited from a deep free-kick, but the latter was unable to make a clean connection with his ambitious volley from just outside of the area.
Legge was then sent off three minutes before half-time after he dragged Marvin Sordell down in a goal scoring position, but the Valiants didn’t let the dismissal affect them and the away supporters were celebrating an equaliser on 45 minutes. Worrall found himself in a one-on-one position after a ball forward from Oyeleke beat the home back line, and he made no mistakes with the finish before wheeling away.
Following the restart, it was Vale who looked the brighter of the two teams and the travelling contingent of away supporters took encouragement from the performance they were watching. Ricky Miller went close twice in quick succession with five minutes of the second half played, but both of his curled efforts dropped just the wrong side of the post.
With their one-man advantage, Northampton started to keep more possession as the game wore on, but they found it hard to create any meaningful chances as the Vale defence remained organised. Sordell almost got ahead of Smith at the near post to poke home from six yards, but the defender did brilliantly to divert it over with an outstretched leg.
The game took another turn with a quarter of an hour remaining, but it went the way of Vale as Cristian Montano was bundles to the ground inside the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Pope then stepped up to fire the ball beyond Cornell with his first touch of the afternoon and the away end burst into raptures.
Northampton Town: David Cornell, David Buchanan, Charlie Goode, Ash Taylor, Sam Hoskins (John-Joe O’Toole 74’), Sam Foley, Andy Williams (Dean Bowditch 56’), Aaron Pierre ©, Shaun McWilliams (Timi Elsnik 55’), Jack Bridge, Marvin Sordell.
Unused Substitutes: Luke Coddington, Shay Facey, Joe Powell, Daniel Powell.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, Mitch Clark, Nathan Smith, Leon Legge ©, Adam Crookes, Luke Joyce, Tom Conlon (Cristian Montano 65’), Manny Oyeleke, Luke Hannant (Kyle Howkins 45’), Ricky Miller (Tom Pope 73’), David Worrall.
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Antony Kay, Theo Vassell, Ben Whitfield.
Attendance: 5,651 (400 Vale).