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Archived News from June 2022

1st June 2022 0:24

English Football League - Sky Bet League Two - Play-off final
Mansfield Town 0 - 3 Port Vale (at Wembley)
Hawkins sent off 35 Harratt 20, Wilson 24, Benning 85
Attendance: 37,303 (at least 16,500 from Mansfield, at least 16,336 from Port Vale, numbers to be confirmed)

Date: 28 May 2022

Martin Shaw at Wembley

Mansfield Town were beaten 3-0 by Port Vale in the League Two Play-off final at Wembley Stadium this afternoon. It was a bitterly disappointing end to a thoroughly enjoyable season, where the Stags came up short at the final hurdle.

The first half was such a bad one for the Stags that the game was effectively over by half time. Mansfield found themselves two goals down and a man down after Oli Hawkins was sent-off on 35 minutes, for a silly challenge when he was already on a yellow card. There was no way back for the Stags, and Port Vale added a third goal after 85 minutes from former Stag Mal Benning who had a brilliant game.

The build-up to the game had been fantastic, ever since the Stags beat Northampton Town home and away in the play-off semi-final 10 days ago. The Stags were backed by at least 16,500 fans (final number to be confirmed) at Wembley, and the atmosphere was rocking.

But the first half turned into a nightmare.

After just 9 minutes the Stags should have been in front and how different the game might have been. Matty Longstaff lifted a cross from the right into the middle. Port Vale defender James Gibbons and former Stags keeper Aidan Stone left it to each other gifting Jamie Murphy a free header at goal from 8 yards out with just Stone to beat. But Murphy headed it straight at Stone who parried it away. A yard either side and it was in. An absolute gift of a glorious chance. Wasted.

Warning bells were ringing for Mansfield when Vale hit the inside of the post after 19 minutes. Benning squared the ball along the edge of the area to Ben Garrity, who laid the ball back to Kian Harratt who fired a precision shot from 22 yards against the inside of the right post. It was a great effort, and a stroke of luck for the Stags that it didn’t go in.

But within a minute, Port Vale were in front. James Wilson sent Benning away down the left with a great pass. Benning got to the edge of the Stags area and fired in a cross-shot that deflected off Elliott Hewitt, who was trying to block it, and Harratt got away from James Perch to head into the net unmarked from 6 yards.

After 24 minutes, Port Vale made it 2-0. David Worrall got away down the right and chipped a cross to the far post where Garrity got above Hewitt to loop a header onto the top of the bar. It bounced down and Wilson headed it into the net, left unmarked by both Perch and Hawkins who watched him head it in.

Benning was getting far too much space down the left, and he brought a good save from Bishop after 34 minutes after another surging run forward.

Worse was to follow after 35 minutes. Hawkins had already been booked 5 minutes earlier, a very soft booking for an off-the-ball incident with Nathan Smith in the Port Vale area. Then, ten yards inside the Vale half, Wilson knocked the ball past Hawkins heading for the touchline in an area of very little danger, and Hawkins was late with the tackle bringing him down. It was a clear yellow card, and Hawkins was sent off. It was a silly challenge from Hawkins when he was already on a yellow card. You just can’t do that and expect to get away with it.

The Stags were within an inch of pulling a goal back after 42 minutes. Stephen McLaughlin’s free kick from the left touchline, halfway inside the Port Vale half, was curled into the area, straight to keeper Stone, who spilled it straight to Rhys Oates. Oates immediately slid his shot under Stone but defender Connor Hall got back to clear it off the line. The goal decision system showed that about 90% of the ball had crossed the line but about an inch hadn’t. In truth, it was the second gift of a glorious chance that the Stags had failed to take.

Wilson curled a free kick just wide of the Stags post in stoppage time at the end of the half.

A disastrous 45 minutes for Mansfield, easily the worst of the season, with defensive lapses leading to two Port Vale goals, a sending-off for Hawkins, while two glaring errors from Port Vale gifted Mansfield two glorious chances which weren’t taken. At 2-0 down, and down to ten men, there was no way back.

Port Vale had two goals disallowed for offside in the second half, from Harratt, and another former Stags player Harry Charsley, on as substitute. And they made it 3-0 after 85 minutes. Worrall got to the byline on the right and chipped a cross into the middle for Benning to volley into the net, unmarked, from 8 yards. It capped a great game for Benning.

Port Vale were left to celebrate their promotion. Mansfield were left to reflect on a very poor performance, missing two glorious chances gifted to them, conceding two goals, and going down to ten men with a sending off from a silly challenge, all in the first half.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the season. A terrible run of 14 games without a win, being second bottom near the end of October, was followed by an incredible run of form, with records being set along the way, including 8 successive wins between the end of November and the end of January (a club record in the Football League), and 11 successive home wins between the end of October and the beginning of April (another club record in the Football league). The Stags had a chance of automatic promotion until the final day of the season, ultimately finishing three points behind third place. Beating Northampton home and away in the play-off semi-final brought memorable scenes, but in the end the Stags fell short at the final hurdle.

Nigel Clough, his management team, and the players have done a very good job to get the club this far in a short space of time, and will be hoping to go one better next season.

Congratulations to Port Vale. Manager Darrell Clarke is a Mansfield lad, who suffered a close family bereavement earlier this year and there was a wonderful moment after 8 minutes of the game when both sets of fans started a minute’s applause for him to show solidarity with him. After the game, Darrell Clarke said "For those Stags fans to do that touched me, I have a great affinity with the club.”
Mal Benning of course was a great favourite with Mansfield fans during his six years with the club, but he had a job to do today, and he had a brilliant game, making one and scoring one goal. I spoke with Mal after the game. He kept apologising to me. I told him there was no need to apologise, he always gave everything for Mansfield and now he had to do that for Port Vale. He said he desperately hoped Mansfield get promoted next season.

So that’s it. It will of course take time to get over this. Thanks for reading this season and thanks for listening and watching too. In just over a month we’ll be back for pre-season and we’ll go all over again. See you then.



PLAY-OFF FINAL: Wembley heartbreak for Mansfield Town as they lose Port Vale showdown 3-0 with 10 men after Oli Hawkins red card
chad.co.uk, By John Lomas, Saturday 28th May 2022

Mansfield Town's thrilling season ended in Wembley heartbreak as they were beaten 3-0 by Port Vale in today's League Two play-off final and handicapped by Oli Hawkins' 35th minute red card.

Stags' dreams of League One football disintegrated inside four nightmare first half minutes as Kian Harratt and James Wilson put Vale in charge.

Hawkins was then needlessly sent off for two silly challenges inside five minutes and that left Nigel Clough's men with too big a mountain to climb on the wide open space of the national stadium.

Vale even had two efforts ruled out for offside after the break before former Mansfield star Mal Benning crowned a fine afternoon against his old club with the third five minutes from time.

It could all have been so different had Jamie Murphy not headed straight at former Stags keeper Aidan Stone after nine minutes or had Rhys Oates effort just before the break fully crossed the line before it was hooked away.

Stags started slowly when Clough had wanted them to make the early running and were made to pay as Vale took charge.


It had been a season to savour with two club records broken.

But Stags had failed to beat Vale in their two league outings and Wembley was to be no different as Port Vale boss and ex-Stags hero Darrell Clarke, who had suffered a major recent family bereavement, broke down in tears at the end at his achievement against his hometown club.

The day had started in such celebratory mood for the Mansfield fans with scarves out the windows on a packed M1 heading south for the big day out.

The Stags side showed two changes from the Northampton semi-final second leg with midfielders Jamie Murphy and Matty Longstaff replacing Lucas Akins and Keiran Wallace, who both dropped to the bench.

O'Toole was again employed in a defensive midfield role but had to drop back into defence after Hawkins' dismissal.

Port Vale were unchanged from the side that saw off Swindon Town in their semi last week.

The atmosphere grew as Stags fans and Vale fans poured into the stadium on a warm afternoon with the sun occasionally breaking through the clouds above the famous stadium.

Wilson caused Stags some early problems on the left of the box and Taylor had a shot charged down in the opening exchanges.

Quinn felt the full effects of a Worrall challenge on six minutes but was able to continue.

The noise levels from the Stags fans increased as their side forced the first two corners of the match, but Vale cleared their lines.

Stags then had the first chance of the game as Longstaff put the ball over from the right, defender Gibbons missed it and the ball sailed to an unmarked Murphy who, six yards out, headed straight at a grateful Stone.

On 14 minutes Stone had to leave his box to head clear before Oates reached a long forward ball.

Perch then calmly beat Harratt to a long ball and headed back to Bishop and, soon after, Garrity tried to slip Harratt clear but Bishop was quickly there to smother the danger.

Vale then came the closest we had seen to a goal with a powerful low Harratt shot that came back off the foot of the right hand post on 19 minutes, the player's celebrations cut shot as he thought it was going on.

But Harratt was celebrating a minute later as he scored the breakthrough goal.

Benning put in a teasing low cross from the left and Harratt stooped to bury a low header from six yards.

Gibbons then played a neat one-two to get into the Stags box before blazing a finish well over as Vale had Stags wobbling alarmingly.

The second goal was not in coming. Gibbons again got down the right and crossed, Garrity's dipping header coming back off the crossbar and Wilson perfectly place to head home the follow-up.

A Stags attack was then halted as Hawkins was spotted holding a Vale player off the ball and was booked with 30 minutes gone.

Wilson sliced a 20 yard effort over on 32 minutes Bishop had to save a Benning finish from the left after he had been picked out by a great Taylor pass.

Mansfield's day went from bad to worse on 35 minutes as Hawkins was sent off for a second booking inside five minutes.

He went into a needless late tackle on Wilson and could have no complaints as the red card was shown and Mansfield were left with a mountain to climb.

Stags almost found a way back into the contest as Oates turned a low shot goalwards and, with Stone beaten, Hall cleared off the line with Stags claiming the ball had crossed the line. The replays showed not the whole of the ball had crossed and Vale had escaped.

Hewitt was added to the book on 44 minutes as he caught Taylor while trying to clear down the line.

Five minutes were added in which Smith headed over from a Benning free kick to the far post and Perch was booked on 45+4 for his foul on Garrity which saw Wilson inches wide with his 28 yard free kick.

There was still time for Wilson to cut in from the left and send a low shot into the arms of Bishop as Vale finished a disastrous half for Mansfield well on top.

Stags survived an early Vale corner after the break, then Taylor lashed a first time shot just wide from a half-clearance on 53 minutes as they looked for a killer third goal.

A minute later Stags sent on an injection of energy in Lapslie, replacing Murphy.

Quinn sent over a corner for Stags on the hour which was cleared to McLaughlin who lashed a low shot wide from 20 yards.

Mansfield had a let-off on 64 minutes as a left wing corner saw Garrity turn the ball on target, Bishop save and Harratt tuck away the loose ball, only to see an offside flag deny him.

Maris replaced Longstaff as Clough made his second roll of the dice on 65 minutes.

Vale had a second goal disallowed for offside on 70 minutes. More great work down the left from Benning saw him curl an inviting low ball to the far post where ex-Stag Charsley, who had only come on four minutes earlier, turned it home only to find he had gone fractionally too early.

On 72 minutes Stone made his first save of the afternoon as he beat away a fierce Oates snapshot from 18 yards.

Oates went close again two minutes later with a 20 yard shot that went wide of the left post.

Akins replaced Quinn with 11 minutes to go and Vale holding onto their precious two-goal advantage.

Former Stags hero Benning rubbed Mansfield noses into the grind with Vale's third five minutes from time.

Worrall sent over a long cross from wide on the right and Benning raced in to bury a low volley at the far post.

The Mansfield Town end was emptying by this point as they knew the game was well and truly up with the final whistle bringing wild Vale celebrations and Stags players flat out on the pitch, exhausted and heartbroken.

STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Murphy (Lapslie 54), Bowery, Hawkins, Perch, Quinn (Akins 79), Oates, O'Toole, Longstaff (Maris 65). SUBS NOT USED: Clarke, Wallace, Stech, Stirk.

VALE: Stone, Gibbons, Smith, Hall, Benning, Worrall (Martin 86), Garrity, Pett, Taylor (Charsley 66), Harratt (Proctor 77), Wilson. SUBS NOT USED: Covolan, Robinson, Amoo, Edmondson.

REFEREE: Jarred Gillett.



Port Vale promoted after superb 3-0 win over Mansfield at Wembley
stokesentinel.co.uk, By Michael Baggaley

See you in League One. Port Vale’s five-year exile in the Football League’s basement division is over after a terrific performance at Wembley saw off Mansfield Town 3-0 in the play-off final.

Goals from Kian Harratt, James Wilson and Mal Benning made the difference but that barely begins to tell the story of Vale’s climb back out of the division involving a threat of administration, close calls with relegation out of the league, a club transformed under new owners and now led to promotion by Darrell Clarke in front of 17,000 partying supporters in the club’s first game at Wembley for 26 years.


Two weeks ago Clarke said his side needed to show him they could produce in big games. They began to answer that with that thrilling semi-final victory over Swindon to reach Wembley - then went up another gear with a superb display at the national stadium.

This was Vale’s first play-off final for 29 years and ‘talk of playing the game not the occasion’ seemed a tall order just looking around at Wembley as the 37,303 crowd began to build up.

Nervous fans among Vale’s following could take their mind off things 20 minutes before kick off by watching the semi-final penalty shoot out win being replayed on the big screen at Wembley, an experience that was a lot more enjoyable when you know who wins.

Clarke, who named an unchanged side, was on the touchline. However, the team was led out by assistant Andy Crosby, recognition for the assistant manager who proved to be such a capable deputy in guiding the team while the manager was on compassionate leave.

Vale were defending the end behind which their supporters were massed - and mostly mortified when James Gibbons and Aidan Stone allowed a cross from the right to bounce between them to Jamie Murphy before his header was well saved by the recovering Stone.

But any fears that would set the tone for the half were forgotten as Vale started to get the ball down and play. They came within an inch of an opener on 19 minutes when Ben Garrity touched the ball back to Kian Harratt whose first time effort from the edge of the area struck the inside of the far post.

A minute later, Wilson picked the ball up in midfield and split the Mansfield defence with a precise ball to pick out Mal Benning’s run on the left. The wing back bent over a cross and Harratt, who had stayed a yard onside, planted a diving header past the keeper to spark Bedlam amongst the Vale fans at the opposite end.

Having got the advantage, Vale showed no sign of relenting as Gibbons surged forward from right-sided centre half, swapped passes with captain Tom Pett but was just off balance as he fired well wide.

But there was no reprieve for Mansfield on 24 minutes when Worrall gathered the ball on the right and stood the ball up to the back post when Garrity rose highest. The midfielder’s looping header struck the bar rebounded to Wilson who headed home to score for the fourth successive game.

Jake Taylor span away from his marker and played a perfect crossfield ball to Benning who took it in his stride and unleashed a shot well beaten away by keeper Nathan Bishop at his near post.

The game swung further to the Vale when Wilson nicked the ball away from Hawkins who clattered the striker and was booked - having already been carded for an off the ball foul.

Hawkins departed, hand to head, while, at the other end of the stadium, Vale fans were daring to chant ‘we are going up’ for the first time.

There was a warning on 41 minutes as Stone spilled a ball in the area and Murphy slotted the rebound past him - only for Hall to clear with replays showing the ball was 9/10ths over the line.

Taylor, who was having a fine game alongside Tom Pett in central midfield, was brought down to earth when Elliott Hewitt took a swing at the ball but connected with the Vale player’s nether regions.

Taylor departed at half time no doubt feeling dazed and tender. The Mansfield players and supporters more so.

It could have been 3-0 but Wilson’s free kick swerved just wide before the Stags were given a chance to reorganise at the break.

But Vale came out looking for a third goal, and came close to finding one when Taylor volleyed just wide from 25 yards.

Mansfield fans were doing their best to rally their ten men but Vale were denied a third goal by the assistant’s flag, on 64 minutes, when Benning’s corner was played low to Wilson whose shot was blocked by the keeper before Harratt tucked the ball away from an offside position.

Clarke made his first change by bringing off Jake Taylor for Harry Charsley, who had the ball in the net on 70 minutes as he converted Benning’s cross but was flagged well offside.

Stone made a flying save to keep out Rhys Oates’ strike from the edge of the area before Clarke made his second change by bringing on Jamie Proctor for Harratt, on 77 minutes.

The party could really begin, on 85 minutes, when Dave Worrall’s cross was met by Benning who ended a run to the back post with a sliding volley back across the keeper and into the far corner right in front of the Vale fans.

They roared about going up. After five years, they really are.

Port Vale: Stone, Gibbons, Smith, Hall, Worrall (Martin, 86), Taylor (Charsley, 67), Pett, Garrity, Benning, Harratt (Proctor, 77), Wilson. Subs: Covolan, Amoo, Robinson, Edmondson.

Mansfield Town: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Murphy (Lapslie, 54), Bowery, Hawkins, Perch, Quinn (Akins, 79) Oates, O’Toole, Longstaff (Maris, 65).

Subs: Clarke, Wallace, Stech, Stirk.

Attendance: 37,303

Referee: Jared Gillett


Port Vale and emotional Darrell Clarke seal promotion against Mansfield
theguardian.com, Nick Ames at Wembley, Sat 28 May 2022 18.16 BST

With the minutes ticking down Darrell Clarke sat back on an advertising hoarding, head bowed, and composed his thoughts. Port Vale were going up to League One, that much was certain: their excellent left wing-back Mal Benning had just volleyed in the third goal and, in truth, the game had been settled long before then. Only Clarke can know exactly what emotions were swirling around during those moments but, when the final whistle blew, the spell of personal reflection had passed. Vale’s players cavorted deliriously on the Wembley pitch, their manager soon joining them, and the overwhelming sense was one of delight at a job exceptionally done.

Clarke had returned to the dugout earlier this month after a phased return to work, which followed a six-week period of compassionate leave upon the death of his eldest daughter, Ellie. He could hardly have pitched himself into a more meaningful run of fixtures; everyone involved has surpassed themselves and the pride will be coursing around a club that had become used to life in the doldrums. Once they had taken the lead through Kian Harratt, Vale never looked like losing a tie that had appeared too close to call at the outset. They were helped by Mansfield’s capacity to self-destruct, manifested most glaringly in Ollie Hawkins’ stupid red card, but this was a performance of intensity and craft that befitted its destination.


“I worked so hard to control those emotions and then they all came out,” Clarke said. “It’s special. I think she was up there kicking every ball, so I dedicate that to my daughter.” It had been an afternoon of deep, meaningful gestures. Clarke began his playing career at Mansfield in the late 1990s, wearing the number eight shirt with distinction, and his former club had instigated an ovation from the stands in the eighth minute. He was visibly moved as all sides of the national stadium applauded. “To do that for myself and my family, I’ll forever be grateful,” he said.

Just before that, Jamie Murphy should have put Mansfield ahead but headed straight at Aiden Stone after defensive indecision. That would have given proceedings on the pitch a different hue but Vale took control from there, using the pitch’s width to excellent effect. Jake Taylor pulled the strings in midfield but the outstanding performer was James Wilson, once such a feted youngster at Manchester United and now looking a class above this level.

The Huddersfield loanee Harratt’s opener was a well-taken stooping header, adjusting himself to show Murphy how it should be done after the marauding Benning’s deflected cross. He had only just hit the post from 20 yards. Within four minutes Wilson made it two from close range after Ben Garrity had nodded a delivery from the right wing-back, David Worrall, onto the bar. “What a player,” Clarke said of Wilson. A big game player who’s produced the goods. I love the kid, he’s got unbelievable talent.”

An experienced Mansfield side might have been expected to stabilise but instead they blew it, Hawkins ploughing through Wilson shortly after receiving his first yellow card and giving Jarred Gillett an easy decision. Only 34 minutes had been played; they could still have made a game of it had Connor Hall not cleared heroically off the line from Ryan Oates, but from then their goose was cooked.

“We didn’t give ourselves a chance,” said a frustrated Nigel Clough, whose side can still be proud given they were in the relegation places last October. Would he nonetheless be back to watch Nottingham Forest in Sunday’s Championship final? “I don’t care if I don’t see another football game for the foreseeable future.”

Clough did, though, say the fact of Clarke’s victory had made the pill less bitter. Port Vale managed the second half consummately and Benning, previously a Mansfield player, added a stylish late flourish. “With all we’ve come through, to put in that performance in the manner we did was outstanding,” Clarke said. It applies to his team, but most of all to him.



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