Only time will tell if Vale fans look back on this game knowing that they used a little bit of luck to get over the finish line and finish in the top three. Oldham’s performance was far higher than there lowly position in the bottom three, yet Vale had fair warning before kick off as to what stood in front of them as the Latics had won their last two games before traveling to Vale Park.
Vale started well, Harry Charsley ridings a couple of challenges down the left, feeding the ball in to James Wilson who got to the byline but his cross was only deflected for a corner. David Worrall trotted over to the corner, driving the ball towards the back post, but it was a little strong and drifted out of play just past the back stick.
On three minutes Vale won another corner, after a deflected shot, this time from the right. The Oldham defense clear their lines with a good clearing header but its fed back in and Oldham are forced to concede corner number three. Worrall delivering in towards the near post but during a tussle, a defender is on the floor and it’s a free kick to the visitors.
Moments later on six minutes, Wilson did well in the midfield to control a bouncing ball before heading towards goal, setting himself maybe 25 yards out and strikes a fierce effort goalward, Danny Rogers did well though, beating the ball away in the centre of his goal.
But on ten minutes, Vale took the league and it was nothing more than they deserved after a lightening start. Connor Hall started the attack in the midfield sending a long pass out to Benning on the left, the wing back making good ground before firing a cross into the heart of the penalty box. The Latics defense seem to have it covered and look to clear the ball away but the clearance is blocked by Hall and falls to Jamie Proctor in the centre of the goal who sidesteps past two defenders and goalkeeper before firing the ball into the open net to give Vale the lead.
Sadly Vale’s lead was short as on sixteen muntes Nicky Adams’ crossed to the back post, the ball was headed back by Hallam Hope and Christopher Missilou scored with a stooping header into the roof of the net.
This only served to shake Vale into life and on twenty-three minutes Vale won a corner after good work in the Oldham goal by Rogers. Benning sent the ball over from the right, a free header at the back post, but Proctor could only place it on the roof of the net with the goal at his mercy.
On twenty-five minutes more good work from Vale had Benning bursting through the lines before passing to Proctor who in turn picked out Worrall on the right of the area, the winger headed towards goal, beating the left back, before firing an effort just over the bar and into the Hamil End.
Vale continued to press and on twenty-eight minutes won a further corner for Vale as Benning’s cross was blocked. The corner though was delayed as Worrall needed attention from the physio and sadly had to leave the field to be replaced by Ryan Edmundson. The corner was eventually provided by Benning, buts it was cleared on the front post.
Four minutes later Vale secured a further Corner, fed into the box by Benning but headed clear, the ball is passed back to Benning as he bursts into the area beating one defender before being grounded by a second, but Referee Will Finnie isn’t interested and waves away the Vale penalty claims.
On thirty-four minutes, Vales pressure finally paid off as they went back in front. Edmundson making ground up the right hand side before completing a one-two with Wilson and firing a raking cross across the goal between keeper and defender which was met perfectly at the back stick by Proctor who buried his effort in the bottom left hand corner.
Oldham were still dangerous on the counter and nearly struck back again on thirty-seven minutes Stone handling the ball outside the area and conceding a free kick and a yellow card. Sam Hart struck a great free kick over the wall, Stone making a fingertip save onto the bar to only concede the corner. The corner was fed in from the left but the referee’s whistle blows for a free kick to let Vale off the hook.
But the warning was not listened too and in the first minute of stoppage time, Benning conceded a soft free kick thirty-five yards out level with the right of the penalty box. Adams sent it in towards the back post, nodded back in at the back post and driven into the net by Davis Keillor-Dunn to put Oldham level again in a carbon copy of the Latics first effort, and sending the visitors into half time level.
Vale started the second half strongly, and on forty-nine minutes Benning won a corner down the Vale left. Strange choice of corner taker as Brad Walker delivered it in, a Vale head winning it, but it flashes the wrong side of the right hand upright.
On fifty-one minutes Oldham really should have gone in front, a great run down the right before firing into the box, Keiller-Dunn has the goal at his mercy with a free header ten yards out, but can only head the ball wide of the left hand post.
But the pivotal point of the game arrived on fifty four minutes and what a strike it was. Wilson has a shot at goal, its blocked and the ball falls to holding defender Brad Walker twenty yards out, he’s almost invited to shoot as he steps past the first defender and shoot he does, right footed, flying into the bottom right hand corner giving Rogers no chance and putting Vale in front for the third time of the afternoon.
Good play on the hour by the Vale midfield gives Charsley a chance to shoot from the edge of the box, but he snatches at the effort, and it bobbles past the left hand upright for a goal kick.
As Vale make defensive changes to the backline, this invited the Latics onto to Vale and an Oldham corner was delivered from the right. The cross finds its way into the heart of the Vale box but no one can get a telling touch and Benning clears, winning the throw after a deflection.
On seventy minutes Adams delivered into the box but Vale cleared, but on seventy-three minutes a terrible mix up at the back conceded a further corner. Adam fed it into the box but Proctor met it with a firm defensive header and Vale cleared their lines. Oldham continued to pressure and on eighty-four minutes Adams again provided a corner, skipper Carl Piergianni meeting it with his header, but it was over the bar much to the relief of the Vale defense.
On eighty six minutes more desperate defending from Vale as they concede yet another corner, Adams sending it in, but the clearing header is straight back to him, he sends it back into the mix, with Oldham players on the deck at the back post but nothing given and it’s a goal kick.
I think those with a weak constitution might want to keep away from Vale’s final five games, its nailed on to be a rollercoaster ride, but maybe, just maybe, Vale are riding the luck of the season ending form team.