REPORT | Wanderers 2 Port Vale 0

Collins goal Port Vale

So now we know – almost.

Wanderers will go into their final game of the season at Peterborough still with a mathematical chance of going straight up to the Championship, writes Pete Oliver.

But realistically, the Whites are now almost certainly play-off bound after they and Derby County both won to leave the Rams three points and four goals better off with a home game against bottom club Carlisle United to come.

That four-goal advantage could have been vastly reduced had Ian Evatt’s men racked up the margin of victory they could and should have from an almost totally dominant performance against a Port Vale side heading to League Two.

But at least Aaron Collins’ superb 72nd-minute strike – his sixth goal in five games – and Cameron Jerome’s second in as many matches ensured the victory that keeps Wanderers’ prospects of finishing third (and possibly second) in their own hands.

Collins thumped home his eighth goal since his January signing as Wanderers finally made one of their myriad of chances count.

Jerome then came off the bench to nod home in stoppage time and with just one defeat in their last 11 games, the Whites must now look to extend an unbeaten run to Wembley and beyond if that’s what it takes to go up.

As well as four changes to Wanderers’ planned starting line-up, there was a further late switch when Nathanael Ogbeta picked up an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Randell Williams.


Collins Nlundulu celebration Port Vale

And Williams was a central character as the Whites looked for the early goal they wanted to try and set up a big win on the back of the successive home draws that had dimmed their automatic promotion prospects.

Collins had seen an effort well saved by Connor Ripley and the returning Dion Charles clipped George Thomason’s lovely ball across goal over the top from close in before Williams did have the ball in the net after 20 minutes.

The wing-back cleverly chipped the ball home from some 35 yards after Ripley had come out to block Josh Dacres-Cogley but with referee Charles Breakspear on the floor after colliding with a Vale defender he opted to stop play.

Paris Maghoma also steered an effort wide after opening up the visitors’ packed defence in typical fashion and Eoin Toal whistled an effort just wide as Wanderers tried everything to break the deadlock in a totally one-sided first half.

And when the first goal didn’t come five minutes before the break it was almost as the goalmouth was jinxed.

Ripley kept out a Josh Sheehan strike with his chest and the when ball finally looked to set go in, Charles and Collins both hit the post as they tried to follow up.


Jerome celebration Port Vale

It was the same story at the start of the second half as the Whites passed up another chance when Gethin Jones picked out Collins, whose scuffed strike found its way to Thomason for another effort that was blocked.

Charles was next to have a go at the end of a break-away as he tested Ripley low down to his left before Sheehan fizzed a shot inches wide of the top corner from 25 yards out.

And when Williams then rattled the crossbar after bursting into the box the Whites could have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be another one of those days.

It might have been had Ethan Chislett not drilled an effort wide from a decent position with 25 minutes to go as Vale – needing a win to have any chance of staying up – somehow remained in the contest.

Not for much longer, though, as the goal that was more than overdue finally came thanks to Collins, who fired Wanderers in front in emphatic style.

The striker is in red-hot form and accepted grabbed the responsibility when he accepted a pass from Williams and beat Ripley with an angled strike that had just too much pace and power for the Vale keeper.


Charles chance Port Vale

Maghoma then set up Charles for a chance he steered wide before being replaced but with 80 minutes into his legs, the top scorer looked sharper and match-ready for the play-offs.

With hope all but gone, Vale rallied themselves for a possible fightback and forced Nathan Baxter into two excellent saves to keep out efforts from Tom Sang and Nathan Smith.

But, fittingly, Wanderers struck the final blow when Jerome doubled his league tally with a real striker’s goal, heading in Maghoma’s lovely cross at the far post to finish with a flourish and momentum restored.

Wanderers: Coleman; Jones, Taylor, Toal; Sheehan (Morley 86); Dacres-Cogley, Maghoma, Thomason (Dempsey 70), Williams; Charles (Nlundulu 80), Collins (Jerome 86). Substitutes: Coleman, Iredale, Ashworth.

Booked: Charles

Port Vale: Ripley; Sang; Debrah, Smith, Iacovitti (Weir 77), Grant (Shorrock 30); Ojo, Walters (Dipap 65); Garrity, Ikpeazu (Loft HT), Chislett. Substitutes: Leutwiler, Lopata, Massey.

Booked: Garrity

Referee: Charles Breakspear

Attendance: 22,311 (1,014 away)

Read Time: 4 mins