Seven magical minutes put Vale into the Third Round of the FA Cup as ‘super sub’ Dennis Politic left the bench and flipped the tie on its head with a wonderful brace against Burton Albion. The League One outfit had taken the lead through Ryan Leak but couldn’t deny the Valiants their place in Monday night’s draw.
Indeed it was Vale that started the brighter of the two teams and as early as the forth minute created a half chance, a long throw from Jones on the left made the box with ease with a strong wind behind the Valiants centre back but no one could get a head on it and it ran through for a goal kick.
Moments later Vale won a corner after a deep free kick from Conlon could only be punched away by Ben Garratt in the Burton goal. Mal Benning put the resulting corner deep towards the back post but it was well claimed by Garratt in the Brewers goal. On nine minutes Vale won another free kick, half way in to the attacking half, Conlon flicking the ball up into the gusting wind. Nathan Smith managed to get a head on to it but not enough and Ben Garratt was able to watch it past his near post.
As the clock ticked into twenty minutes the first real moment of danger for the visitors arrived, a mistake from Smith allowed Daniel Jebbison to run clear down the inside left channel before drilling the ball across goal from the by line, it seemed easier to score than miss but neither of the men in yellow in the box could apply a touch and Vale survived.
But having failed to heed the warning, the Brewers took a twenty-sixth minute lead. The Brewers advanced down the left, before firing a cross over aimed to the back stick. Mal Benning did well to head clear but the resulting clearance fell to Kane Hemmings who picked up the loose ball and raced past Benning, crossing to the back post where Leak out muscled Smith to plant his header in at the back post giving Stone no chance in the Vale goal.
Only a minute later Burton nearly doubled their lead, Jonny Smith firing through a melee of players, beating Stone but somehow Dan Jones who had positioned himself on the goal line, managed to get the ball up and onto the cross bar and Vale scrambled it away to safety.
Having been played out of the game for twenty minutes, Vale tried to establish a foothold and as the half drew to a close Vale almost pulled level. Excellent work down the right freed James Gibbons who played the ball into Conlon, the skipper taking a touch and back heeling a return pass to Gibbons who drilled the ball across goal from the right hand side of the penalty box. David Amoo was the first to react, taking a touch and drilling the ball towards the bottom right hand corner, Garratt making a fine save, getting a strong hand to the effort and only conceding the corner.
Vale still had time for more good work down the right, a long throw from the right side from Jones was headed clear but Gibbons and Jones combined to put the ball back into the mix, Garrity clearly controlling the ball in the box only to be felled by the defender but referee Martin Coy waved away the penalty appeals to the disbelief of the traveling Vale fans at that end of the ground.
Vale started the second half where they left the first, a lovely ball over the top allowed Amoo to burst into the Brewers half, the make shift striker getting to the ball first but his chip over the on rushing Garratt, bounced agonisingly wide of the right hand post. On fifty minutes, Vale fashioned two good chances, Gibbons made a great run down the right, getting the better of the Burton left back, firing an effort on goal bringing a fine stop from Garratt who pushed the ball away to Pett who took a touch, beating the first defender but his effort from the edge of the box was wild and high over the goal into the stand.
As the game progressed into the final third, Manager Darrell Clarke upped the ante, bringing Lewis Cass on for Benning and David Worrall on for Aaron Martin. This change alone sparked the Vale into life, a free kick from the right was delivered by Worrall, Tom Conlon doing well to volley an effort towards goal but it was deflected clear, the ball came back in, again falling to Conlon, but his snap shot was wide of the right upright.
The changes continued on seventy-three minutes as Dennis Politic enter the fray as David Amoo pulled up with what seemed a worrying hamstring injury.
But what an introduction it proved to be. A corner for Burton was swung across but well cleared and Vale were on the counter. A long ball was fed towards Rodney who brought the ball down well, before the ball was passed ball wide right, Worrall crossing the ball before it dropped to Politic on the edge of the box and the ball flew from the boot of the Romanian midfielder, past Garratt, to give Vale a well-deserved equaliser.
If that was spectacular, Vale were not finished as Valiants took the lead, courtesy of some fantastic play from Vale in the midfield. Conlon fed Gibbons who slid the ball up the left hand side of the field, Rodney doing so well, turning his defender before putting a slide rule pass through the Burton defence. Politic burst through the middle of the defence, danced past Garratt, and from an acute angle put the ball in the net despite the efforts of the covering to defender to put Vale in front.
As the game ticked into the five allowed minutes at the end of the ninety, Valiants hearts would have been in their mouths, but a mixture of resilience from the back five and woeful play from the Brewers allowed Vale to play out the remainder of the game comfortably and progress into the third round of the FA Cup with the possibility of meeting the likes of Liverpool or Manchester City in the next round.