Match Report: Port Vale 2 Newcastle United u21 1

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Mark Cullen scored a decisive 85th minute winner to ensure Port Vale topped their English Football League Trophy group and secured a place in the second round.

The Geordie raced onto a defence-splitting through ball from Ryan Lloyd before rounding the goalkeeper with composure and deftly rolling the ball into an empty net.

The 27 year-old goal-poacher opened the scoring in the 40th minute by poking his effort past Jake Turner after the ball ricocheted off the goalkeeper in the box from an initial save he made moments earlier.

The vast majority of the 571 in attendance raucously celebrated Rhys Browne’s 47th minute strike which cannoned off the bar and appeared to cross the line, only for the officials to surprisingly decide to not award a goal.

Dave Kevan, the assistant manager for The Valiants, spoke about recognising the importance of a positive momentum and even allowed himself to ponder a possible future Wembley outing.

He said: “Winning football matches is a habit and hopefully we seem to be in that habit at the moment.

“The longer the competition goes on, you start to think ‘how far away is Wembley?’ and that’s always nice for the supporters and the players.

“We try to approach every game the same with the attitude to win it so we’ll see how far we can go in it.”

Despite switching from the usual 4-3-3 formation to a 4-4-1-1 and naming 11 changes from their last fixture, Vale were able to nullify the threat posed by Newcastle’s youthful footballing technicians.

The home side remained physical and resolute throughout with target man Jordan Archer linking up well with goalscorer Cullen to harass the Magpies’ back four.

Kevan spoke about the heavy squad rotation and the importance of giving players like Cullen some much-needed time on the pitch.

He claimed the fixture was a “good opportunity to put minutes into the legs of players that haven’t featured regularly.

“The two goals will help Mark and lets others know he’s breathing down their necks in terms of being in contention for selection.”

Financially, the victory for The Valiants ensured they will pocket £10,000 by topping their EFL Trophy group and will also play at Vale Park in the second round of the competition.

Perhaps if the Burslem-based side can continue their good run of form, fans and players, along with Kevan, can dare to dream of playing at the national stadium in a cup final this season.

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