Theo Robinson’s penalty was not enough to prevent Vale from falling to defeat at the hands of league leaders Cambridge United, following a 3-1 defeat at the Abbey Stadium.
The game could not have started in a worse fashion for the Valiants, when Tom Conlon was adjudged to have fouled former Vale man Luke Hannant inside the box with two minutes of the game gone, resulting in a Cambridge penalty which Paul Mullin duly despatched for the hosts.
Cambridge almost doubled their lead after 10 minutes, when former Norwich man Wes Hoolahan fired an effort against the post, before the Vale defence cleared the ball from any further danger.
But with 16 minutes gone, Theo Robinson ran through on goal and was brought down inside the box by Harry Darling, earning the Valiants a penalty and a golden chance to level the score.
And the man who earnt the penalty, took responsibility and despatched his penalty into the bottom-left corner to bring the Valiants level, with Robinson scoring his fourth goal of the season in the process.
Despite a frantic opening period to the game, the match went into a lull following Vale’s equaliser, with the Valiants largely dominating possession and control of the game for the following 15 minutes.
With just over ten minutes of the half remaining, Vale’s period of control almost ended up with the visitors taking the lead, when Robinson’s ball through to David Worrall left Cambridge outnumbered on the back foot, but Harry Darling managed intercept Worrall’s low ball into the box before any significant danger could be created.
And it was Vale who ended the half the stronger of the two sides, and Danny Whitehead had the chance to give the Valiants a half-time lead, but his close-range volley from Worrall’s cross went over Mitov’s crossbar, meaning the game would remain level going into the break.
Despite Vale putting their hosts under some early second half pressure, it was Cambridge who took the lead for the second time in the game, four minutes
after the restart, when Harrison Dunk’s ball into the box was tapped home by Paul Mullin, for his second goal of the game.
The Valiants almost responded immediately, when the ball dropped for Theo Robinson inside the box, but his shot was blocked on the line by a Cambridge body before Mitov gathered the ball, leaving Vale frustrated.
With 56 minutes gone Mullin had a chance to secure his hat-trick, but his shot inside the box was skewed wide, with the Valiants still alive in the game.
Cambridge’s strong start to the second-half didn’t deter the Valiants, and after 59 minutes Cristian Montano’s header from David Fitzpatrick’s cross just went over the top of Mitov’s crossbar as Vale went in search of an equaliser.
Despite putting on the pressure in spells throughout the second half, Vale couldn’t quite find themselves an equaliser, with Tom Conlon’s deflected effort with five minutes of the game remaining, causing The U’s defence a brief moment of panic, before being cleared for a corner.
And Paul Mullin settled the game in stoppage time with his hat-trick goal, when Scott Brown did well to initially push Mullin wide, but the striker was still able to execute an impressive finish, to seal the game for Cambridge and condemn Vale to defeat.
The Valiants will look to respond on Saturday, when they face Oldham Athletic in a Sky Bet League Two clash at Boundary Park.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Darling, Taylor, Iredale (Davies 77’), Hannant, Digby, Boateng (May 77’), Dunk, Hoolahan (Ironside 84’), Mullin.
Unused subs: Burton, Cundy, El Mizouni, Knibbs.
Port Vale: Brown, Clark, Smith, Legge, Fitzpatrick, Joyce, Conlon, Whitehead (Rodney 79’), Worrall, Montano (Pope 84’), Robinson.
Unused subs: Visser, Brisley, Crookes, Burgess, Cullen.