A heroic seven-minute hat-trick from Tom Pope completed a quick second-half comeback as Port Vale booked their place in the third round of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win against Cheltenham Town.
The Vale came into this one looking to bounce-back following defeat to Scunthorpe last time out, yet Askey’s men couldn’t have got off to a worse start after Cristian Montano was adjudged to have brought down Sean Long in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and the resulting penalty was dispatched by Reuben Reid to put the home side ahead.
Following the opening goal in the second minute, the home side continued to dominate possession but failed to create anything of note, yet did earn the first corner of the match after ten minutes and the ball fell kindly to Rohan Ince whose goal-bound effort was cleared.
Moments later it was Reid who should have doubled the Robins’ advantage. Long once again picked the ball up on the right and pulled it back to Reid who missed the ball completely; a let off for the Vale.
After 16 minutes, the Valiants began to get a foothold in the game, and it was their turn to earn a corner when James Gibbons’ deceptive cross caught Scott Flinders off guard, but the Cheltenham keeper recovered well to tip over.
Askey’s men began to apply the pressure midway through the first period, and David Amoo thought he was through on goal following a great ball from Gibbons, however the linesman had his flag up for offside.
Moments later though, the home side once again had a golden opportunity to go two ahead. Ben Tozer did well on the edge of the box to pierce a ball through to Alex Addai, yet his heavy touch let him down allowed Scott Brown to bravely collect the ball at his feet.
Jake Taylor then did well to earn the Valiants a corner ball not long after, and Tom Conlon’s delivery was met by the head of Tom Pope whose flick-on was pounced on by Flinders.
Taylor was once again the man trying to find a way back into the match for Vale, and he received the ball on the edge of the box and tried his luck but was dealt with easily by the Robins’ keeper.
Askey’s side continued to look dangerous towards the end of the first 45, and had a wonderful opportunity to draw level on the stroke of half-time. It was an excellent one-two between Taylor and Browne on the left-hand side, and the delivery from Browne was agonisingly missed by both Pope and Amoo who couldn’t quite connect.
Despite a promising end to the first-half, the Vale headed into the break a goal down.
The Valiants began brightly in the second period and did well to earn a corner after 50 minutes. A poor defensive clearance found its way to Nathan Smith whose driving effort was deflected behind.
Moments later the Vale so nearly made their pressure count. It was a deep ball from the right and Pope rose the highest, however his headed effort was cleared off the line by Tozer to deny the equaliser.
After 54 minutes Cheltenham nearly left the Vale ruing missed chances. A great delivery from Jake Doyle-Hayes on the right found an unmarked Hussey at the back post but his looping header just went wide of the mark.
Finally, on the hour mark the Vale made their pressure count. Rhys Browne did excellently down the left to beat his man and cross, and there was Pope who launched himself at the ball and found the back of the net to restore parity.
Just two minutes later the Valiants completed a quick turnaround and took the lead through Pope with his second in as many minutes. This time it was down the right-hand side and Amoo was the provider, he delivered a pinpoint cross into the box and Pope got ahead of his man and diverted his diving header past a helpless Flinders to put Askey’s men ahead.
The Vale did not stop there, and five minutes later it was that man Pope again to complete a hat-trick in seven minutes, putting Vale firmly in the driving seat. It was a Tom Conlon corner that wasn’t dealt with by the Cheltenham backline and there was Pope to smash home from six yards out, sending the away end in to raptures.
With ten minutes left, the Vale looked as comfortable as they had all game, restricting the home side to very little chances.
With just over five minutes left, the Vale had Brown to thank after he made a terrific double save to keep the side’s two goal lead intact.
After a frustrating first-half, the Vale showcased immense character as they completed a turnaround in the second period, sending the Vale into the hat for the third round of the cup.
Port Vale: Brown, Gibbons, Joyce, Legge, Pope, Conlon (90' Brisley), Montano, Smith, Taylor, Browne, Amoo
Unused Subs: Maddison, Atkinson, Cullen, Evans, Burgess, Bennett
Cheltenham Town: Flinders, Long, Hussey, Tozer, Reid (‘45 Reilly), Broom (61' Sheaf), Boyle, Addai, Doyle-Hayes (81'Smith), Ince, Greaves
Unused Subs: Lovett, Raglan, Clements, Lloyd,