Port Vale sealed promotion to Sky Bet League One as they beat Mansfield 3-0 at Wembley.
Quickfire first-half goals from Kian Harratt and James Wilson set Vale on their way in the League Two play-off final, and a 35th-minute dismissal for Oli Hawkins left the Stags with too much to do to get back into the game. Former Mansfield defender Mal Benning then secured the win with Vale’s third late on.
It is a first return to the third tier in five years for Vale. For Mansfield, their wait to return to that level will now stretch from 19 years to at least two full decades by the end of next season.
Vale dominate at Wembley to reach League One
There are so often sliding doors moments in these finals, and this one came so early for Mansfield. After just nine minutes Jamie Murphy was presented with a glorious opportunity to hand his side the lead after James Gibbons had misread a cross – but he was denied by Aidan Stone from close range.
That allowed Harratt the chance to give Vale the lead. Just a minute after he had hit the post with a rasping drive from 20 yards, he did find the goal on 20 minutes as he latched onto Mal Benning’s deflected cross to plant a header into the bottom corner.
- For the fourth time in four attempts, Mansfield failed to win promotion via the play-offs (1995, 2004, 2019 and 2022). This was the second time they’ve reached the final and failed to win, having previously lost in a penalty shootout against Huddersfield in 2004.
- Port Vale have now won promotion in two of their three play-off appearances, however this was their first triumph since the 1988-89 season while in the third tier. They are the first team to win promotion via the League Two play-offs after finishing fifth since 2014-15 (Southend).
- Mansfield failed to win all three of their games against Port Vale in 2021-22 (D1 L2), with the Valiants being one of only three teams to beat Mansfield on multiple occasions this term (also Harrogate and Sutton).
Four minutes later it was 2-0 as David Worrall’s cross from the right was headed onto the bar by Ben Garrity, before the ball dropped kindly for former Manchester United striker Wilson to head in.
The situation soon went from bad to worse for Mansfield. Hawkins, booked just a few minutes earlier, picked up a second yellow for a rash lunge on Wilson – leaving his side with 10 men.
Mansfield could have got back into it just before the break as a free-kick was spilled by Aidan Stone and landed in the path of Rhys Oates, but his shot was hooked off the line by Connor Hall to maintain Vale’s advantage.
There would be no comeback for the Stags, as Benning sealed the game late on for Vale against his old side, volleying home brilliantly from Worrall’s cross.
Man of the Match – James Wilson
A constant menace to the Mansfield defence. In truth, if injuries weren’t a factor it is unlikely that Wilson would be playing at this level at all. At 26, it would be great to see if he could use this season and this performance as a springboard to achieve some of his potential.