Three consecutive penalty kick saves by Joe Collinge saw Port Vale under 18’s progress through to the second round of the FA Youth Cup following a 1-1 draw with Walsall under 18’s.
The Saddlers opened the scoring just after the 20th minute via an Antonio Christofaro strike before they were sent down to ten men after Thomas Cox was adjudged to have denied Kamani McFarlane a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Seven minutes after the break the Valiants earned a deserved equaliser through an Ellis Jones guided header, but Vale just weren’t quite able to find that decisive goal with goalkeeper Zach Hedge being forced to make a number of important stops.
So the game entered a penalty shoot-out and after Collinge made three spectacular saves in a row, substitute Ben Lomax stepped and made no mistake to seal a place for Vale in the next round of the FA Youth Cup.
Billy Paynter’s side did begin the cup tie on the front foot and registered their first shot on target inside seven minutes when space opened up for Tommy McDermott and his drive was spilt by Zach Hedge, but Walsall was able to scramble the follow up away to safety.
Just before the quarter of an hour mark Vale did have a slight scare when Christofaro surged forward and had a hit from range that flashed wide of the right-hand post.
This proved to be a warning sign as on the 21st-minute mark undeservedly Vale fell behind when Christofaro’s powerful effort from the left from distance found its way past Collinge.
The away side failed to let this be a setback though as they responded quite well as Kamani McFarlane seven minutes later did well to turn away from his man on the left, but his strike was blazed over the bar.
Only a minute later though things started to look up for the Valiants when McFarlane did well to nick the ball off Cox and when through on goal the defender brought him down just outside the area leaving the referee no choice but to show the red card.
Things could have even gotten better from the resulting free-kick, which was well struck by James Plant, but unfortunately, it cannoned off the post instead of nestling into the top left-hand corner.
This seemed to install the Valiants with a huge amount of confidence with Plant being involved again as he tried to bend the ball into the far corner, but he could only see his effort be well held by Hedge.
With Vale trying to use that extra man count, they were well on top towards the end of the half and were close to a leveller on the stroke of half time when Rhy Walters did well to create a yard of space, but his well-hit strike was again collected by Hedge.
After the break, it was the hosts that restarted the stronger with Shaw driving forward from deep and hitting a long-range shot that was turned behind by Collinge.
Inside 51 minutes Vale carved out their first opportunity of the second period when McDermott found space on the right and his looping shot that seemed destined for the top corner was well tipped round the post by Hedge.
Although only moments later Vale did find that equaliser that they had been pushing for when an inviting cross from the left was well met by the free Jones and he was able to glance the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
This seemed to boost and encourage Vale even more as they started to gain a grip hold of the game and were very close to going into the lead when Plant’s shot from the left was spilt into the path of substitute Halim Adekunle but his close-range strike was well blocked by Hedge.
Paynter's outfit were really increasing on the pressure with McFarlane being at the centre of their attacks as with just over 20 minutes to go he saw shot from the right blocked by the legs of Hedge followed shortly by another effort that was deflected off target.
Then with six minutes remaining the forward was involved once again he worked some space down the right, but his low strike again was kept out by Hedge
Despite doing all they could to claim that winning goal, Vale just fell short meaning that the game headed into extra time and in the 94th minute, Collinge pulled off a super save to ensure Vale were still level as he tipped over Jack Shaw’s powerful effort from the edge of the box.
This was the best opportunity to come out of the half an hour extra time period as neither side seemed to get a foothold on the game meaning that the tie had to be settled by a penalty shoot-out.
A Vale victory was formulated pretty quickly though n the shootout without too much drama as following three magnificent saves from the spot by Collinge from Rio Sawyers, Shaw and Marvellous Onabirekhanlen, Lomax calmly slotted the decisive penalty kick away as Vale saw themselves go in the draw for the second round of the FA Youth Cup.
Walsall | Hedge, Baldwin, Jones (103’ Hunter) , Shaw, Angafor, Maher (77’ Onabirekhanlen) , Chakki, Derry (58’ Willock), Sarvari, Cox, Christofaro (33’ Sawyers)
Unused subs: Toor, Jackson, Uchema
Port Vale | Collinge, Ilori, Jones, Plant (91’ Lomax), Chale, Walters, McFarlane, Osman (61’ Adekunle), Filho, Manhertz, McDermott
Unused subs: Sharp, McIntosh, Riley