Posh v Port Vale FA Cup 3rd Rd – 5 Jan 1991
Venue: Vale Park, Burslem, Stoke-Upon-Trent
Score: Peterborough Utd 1 v Port Vale 2
Referee: T. Fitzharris.
Brave Posh went tantalisingly close to adding to their impressive list of FA Cup giant killing acts at Vale Park. The basement battlers gave their second division opponents the fright of their lives and can consider themselves a shade unfortunate not to have earned a third round replay.
The home camp were relieved to hear the final whistle after breaking Posh’s hearts and cup dreams with a dubious penalty equaliser and a fortuitous late winner.
Everything looked rosy in the Posh garden until that fateful moment when keeper Paul Bradshaw was ruled to have upended top scorer Darren Beckford moments before half time.
Referee Tom Fitzharris pointed to the spot and a fuming Bradshaw led the Posh protests.
But they were to no avail and the Posh keeper was comfortably beaten by Ray Walker’s well struck shot into the corner.
It looked a harsh decision and afterwards the Posh camp were unanimous that Beckford had taken a ‘dive’.
“The lad had knocked it on too far, he knew that and so he’s gone for the penalty! But you can’t blame him, who wouldn’t? The referee said he thought about it but you’ve got to be able to see things like that” said Posh boss Dave Booth.
A gutted Bradshaw also reckoned the official had been conned saying “The Vale player had knocked the ball on too far and there was no way he was going to get it after I closed him down. He’s then gone down, knowing he might get the decision”.
Posh had made the perfect opening, stunning Vale with a fourth minute goal following their first really serious attack.
Architect was lively youngster Dale Watkins playing his first FA Cup game, whose cross from the right caused panic in the Vale defence and ended up with Posh skipper Mick Halsall on target against Wycombe Wanderers in the previous round, gleefully firing into the roof of the net.
But Posh quickly found themselves on the rack as Vale desperately searched for a quick reply, the visitors’ goal leading something of a charmed life.
First the recalled Gerry McElhinney cleared a John Jeffers header off the line, and then within a minute former Posh loanee Ronnie Jepson almost scored against his old team mates.
Shoot on sight Jepson was a constant thorn in the Posh’s side and the former London Road favourite swivelled and shot from 25 yards out only to see his drive strike the inside of the post and go across the face of the goal to safety.
Posh now had a tough rearguard battle on their hands but with the indomitable Gerry McElhinney carrying on where he left off prior to his three game suspension, they somehow stayed afloat.
However, Beckford could have sank them without trace with just Bradshaw to beat he chipped just wide in the 19th minute. and seven minutes before the break he again eluded the Posh defence but this time lobbed inches over the bar.
Beckford though, did have the final word ‘winning’ the crucial penalty equaliser and bundling in the 81st minute winner, probably off his shoulder following a corner which reached him after inadvertently skimming off the top of McElhinney’s head.
With the strong, swirling wind in their favour in the second half Posh more than held their own.
They appeared to have weathered the storm with David Riley returning to his old stomping ground, briefly coming to life early in the second period.
A fine Paul Culpin run and cross from the right found the lurking Riley whose first time effort went just the wrong side of the upright. Then Riley saw his 61st minute shot, this time from the left, well held by goalkeeper Trevor Wood.
Until Vale’s late strike, a draw looked on the cards with manager’s Booth decision to drop experienced central defenders George Berry and Keith Oakes and adopt a more adventurous 4-4-2 approach poised to pay handsome dividends.
However, on their first half superiority there can be no arguing the hosts were value for their victory although, as Booth reflected afterwards, it might have been a different story had Cuplin not squandered a gilt edged scoring opportunity five minutes before half time.
“We needed to be a bit steadier in front of goal and with more sharpness in that area and with a 2-0 cushion you don’t know what would have happened” added the Posh boss.
The Posh: Paul Bradshaw, Noel Luke, Phil Crosby, Mick Halsall, Gerry McElhinney, Garry Butterworth, Worrell Sterling, Mark Hine, David Riley, Paul Culpin and Dale Watkins (Steve Osborne 86 mins). Unused sub: Keith Oakes.
Port Vale: Trevor Wood, Aspin, Webb, Ray Walker, Parkin, Glover, Ford, Earle, Ronnie Jepson, Darren Beckford and John Jeffers. Unused subs: Porter and Mills.
Bookings: Aspin (Port Vale).
The Posh – Mick Halsall 4 mins.
Port Vale – Ray Walker (pen) 44 mins and Darren Beckford 81 mins.