Zak Mills’ 79th minute strike was enough to secure Port Vale’s passage to the last 16 of the Papa John’s Trophy, after a 2-1 victory over Wolves U21’s at Vale Park.
Taylor Perry had given the young Wolves team before Harry McKirdy and Zak Mills sent Vale through to the next round of the competition.
The visitors could have taken the lead within the first 60 seconds when Conor Carty met a low ball into the box, but his effort was clipped onto the bar and over for a Vale goal-kick.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Wolves U21’s took the lead when Ki-Jana Hoever’s ball into the box was taken down by Luke Cundle, who then laid the ball to Taylor Perry, who fired the ball into the bottom right corner, to give the visitors the lead.
But seven minutes later, the Vale produced a response with our first real opportunity of the game, when Alex Hurst’s ball into the box was headed back across goal in the direction of Harry McKirdy by Zak Mills, before, McKirdy slotted the ball into the bottom corner to bring Vale level.
Dino Visser was called into action after 32 minutes, when Theo Corbeanu’s long-range effort dipped straight in front of our goalkeeper, but he was able push the ball away from goal, before gathering the ball at the second time of asking.
Vale briefly thought they had taken the lead with four minutes of the half remaining, when Tom Pope wonderfully headed the ball over Andreas Sondergaard and into the back of the net via the aid of the crossbar, but the number nine was adjudged to have been in an offside position, meaning the scores would remain level at the break.
Theo Corbeanu almost gave Wolves an early second-half lead immediately from kick-off, when his curling effort from outside of the box sailed over Visser’s head, but hit the crossbar before going over.
Harry McKirdy was causing the Wolves defence all sorts of problems throughout the evening, and his powerful 61st minute strike from outside of the box had to be dealt with by Sondergaard, before Pope had an effort blocked inside the six-yard box from the resulting corner.
But it took a brilliant strike from an unlikely source to give Vale the lead with just over ten minutes of the game remaining, when Zak Mills pounced on a loose Wolves clearance on the edge of the box and fired the ball home into the bottom right corner, with the Valiants now having a lead to defend.
Vale’s passage to the round of 16 was almost made secure with three minutes of normal time remaining, when Theo Robinson’s effort on the angle was saved by the leg of Sondergaard before being cleared by the Wolves defence.
And Vale should have wrapped the tie up in added time, when Robinson originally rounded Sondergaard before unselfishly squaring the ball to Scott Burgess whose effort was saved by the Wolves keeper, before Alex Hurst’s effort at the near post sailed just over the crossbar a minute later.
But Vale saw the tie out, securing their passage into the last 16 of the competition, and making it two wins on the bounce before the visit of Colchester United on Saturday.
Port Vale: Visser, Mills, Smith, Brisley, Fitzpatrick, McKirdy (Worrall 69’), Burgess, Conlon (Joyce 45’), Hurst, Cullen (Robinson 45’), Pope.
Unused subs: Brown, Montano, Rodney.
Wolves U21: Sondegaard, Hoever, Buur (Lonwijk 79’), Marques, Richards, Bueno, Cundle, Shabani, Perry, Corbeanu, Carty (Hesketh 78’).
Unused subs: Young, Matheson, Estrada, Wan, Harkin.