City romped into the second round of the Carabao Cup after defeating Port Vale in fine style at Vale Park. A debut goal for Jason Shackell was followed up in the second half with goals from Matt Green anMichael O’ Connor before the scoring was rounded out by John Akinde.
The Imps gave a first competitive starts to Grant Smith, Jason Shackell and Ellis Chapman as well as bringing in Joan Luque and Adam Crookes onto the bench for the clash against The Valiants, as Danny Cowley utilised his squad in this first round Carabao Cup tie at Vale Park as they looked to advance into round two.
City were in the ascendency from the kick off, pressing their hosts back into their own penalty area and getting the first shot of the game away within the opening two minutes giving the travelling Imps’ supporters a reason to get off their feet, but Matt Rhead’s effort was watched wide of danger by Scott Brown in the Vale goal. That positivity went through the roof of the away end when The Imps got themselves in front and it was a debut goal for Shackell, after winning a corner the ball was swung to the back post where Scott Wharton was free to head across the face of goal and Shackell couldn’t have had an easier job, forcing the ball over the line from no more than a yard out.
Port Vale were trying to get themselves back on level terms as the game became a little disjointed, tackles were a little more robust as a consequence but it was City who were trying to play their way back into the opposing half with some neat interplay between Harry Anderson, Tom Pett and the effervescent Shay McCartan whose movement was particularly eye catching.
It was almost twenty minutes into the game before Vale had anything like a sustained spell of pressure, keeping the ball in the Imps’ half but not breaching the penalty area, the solidity and shape of the visiting defence frustrating the hosts into a more direct path towards the box but it was still to no avail. Even when they did finally manage to get anything towards Smith’s goal, typical bravery from City blocked the ball’s route towards the net and the home supporters were becoming a little frustrated as a result.
The Imps were calm in possession as Anderson almost broke free inside the Vale box, but was forced all the way across from right to left, he tapped it to Harry Toffolo who crossed to the back post where McCartan was waiting, he lined up the half volley and struck the ball sweetly but Scott Brown managed to get two strong hands to deflect the ball clear. It took just over half an hour before the game was really to open up as play went quickly from one end of the pitch to the other, and it was following a quick break forward from Vale that they forced two set pieces in quick succession, the first, a free kick strongly punched clear by Smith and the second, a corner swung in by Luke Hannant that was swiftly dealt with by the Imps.
Manny Oyeleke fired an audacious effort from outside the box which went over the top of Smith’s crossbar as half time approached, the Imps stopper wasn’t at all concerned as he just watched it fly by. Shortly after, Matt Green fired a low drive which did force Brown into a save, as City once again showed their teeth in attack despite the majority of action taking place in the middle third of the field.
Vale pressed with the hope of an equaliser right on the half time whistle but Smith had other ideas, confidently coming to claim a corner towards the back post and moments before the break Antony Kay fired a low shot which Ricky Miller diverted wide.
Port Vale 0 The Imps 1
Both sides came out for the second half unchanged with The Imps now kicking towards their supporters and they were to win an early corner, and from that came a penalty. The ball was only half cleared before McCartan swung it back into the area, GREEN was brought down before getting up to confidently smash the spot kick low to Brown’s right to double City’s lead with just four minutes of the second half gone.
Kay was within a whisker of pulling a goal back for the hosts a few minutes later, following a free kick on the right it was cleared by James Wilson outside the area to around 20 yards out, the Vale number six hammered his effort at goal beating Smith but the ball cannoned off the crossbar and bounced to safety. Miller was the next to fire a shot from outside the area for the hosts, turning quickly before shooting however, he could only watch as it arrowed over the top.
McCartan showed his pace following a good break down the right from City, he outpaced Montano who brought the Northern Irishman down, Toffolo tried his luck from the rather acute angle but Brown was equal to it. John Akinde was introduced just after the hour mark and was straight into the thick of the action, making a purposeful run down the right after being released by Chapman down the left flank, the striker made his way into the box but Leon Legge did well to step across the path of Akinde and win possession.
Vale continued their attempts to get back into the game, with Dave Worrall linking purposefully with Oyeleke down the Vale right but the final ball was continually being cut out by City’s defence, the home side won a couple of quick corners which were manfully defended yet again, with Shackell towering in the heart of the action.
Smith was called upon to keep The Imps two goals to the good as Miller combined with Hannant, who with very little back lift got his shot away and Smith dived full stretch to his left to tip the ball away from the goal and the visiting supporters were off their seats applauding the stop. Akinde was inches away from creating a second goal for Green, the substitute’s cross whistled through a sea of legs with Green very close to getting the decisive touch and it straight through and out for a goal kick just beyond the far post.
Vale were far from giving up with the game in the final 15 minutes as they were again denied a goal by some wonderful defending, the home side putting in a cross deep into the heart of City’s area which Miller was waiting to hit, but it was swept away from under his nose at the crucial moment by James Wilson.
The home side were to rue that missed chance as with just ten minutes to go a former player of Vale was to come back to bite them, MICHAEL O’CONNOR who came on as a second half substitute, took aim and hit an unstoppable effort from 20 yards which flew past Brown. Before the home side could catch their breath The Imps were to get a fourth, AKINDE picking the pocket of the home defence, nabbing possession before striding into the box and confidently striking home.
Port Vale 0 The Imps 4
1 Scott BROWN
3 Cristian MONTANO
5 Leon LEGGE
6 Antony KAY
7 Dave WORRALL
8 Manny OYELEKE
10 Ricky MILLER
11 Luke HANNANT
13 Connell RAWLINSON
15 Nathan SMITH
19 Louis DODDS
12 Sam HORNBY
2 James GIBBONS
4 Luke JOYCE
14 Scott QUIGLEY (65’ for Dodds)
17 Idris KANU (75’ for Worrall)
18 Michael TONGE
21 Theo VASSELL (85’ for Montano)
Booking: Dodds 17’ Montano 35’
21 Grant SMITH
5 Jason SHACKELL
6 Scott WHARTON
7 Tom PETT
9 Matt RHEAD
10 Matt GREEN
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
14 Harry TOFFOLO
15 James WILSON
17 Shay McCARTAN
26 Harry ANDERSON
22 Michael ANTKOWIAK
4 Michael O’CONNOR (73’ for Shackell)
8 Lee FRECKLINGTON
11 Bruno ANDRADE (64’ For McCartan)
19 Joan LUQUE
29John AKINDE (62’ for Rhead)
GOALS: Shackell 5’ Green (Pen) 49’ O’Connor 80’ Akinde 82’
Booking: Rhead 59’
Referee: Robert Lewis
Assistants: Mark Cunliffe & Ian Smedley
4th Official: Thomas Harty
Attendance: 2,440 (468 Imps Supporters)