Port Vale 4 Wycombe Wanderers 1
A good game of football was ruined when referee Carl Boyeson gave Wycombe’s Jo Kuffour his marching orders in first-half stoppage time.
Up until then, the two sides were evenly matched in a ding dong battle, with the Blues holding a slender 1-0 half-time lead courtesy of Joel Grant’s 20th minute spot kick.
Wycombe’s tricky front-four of Andrade, Kuffour, Morgan and Grant had kept the Vale defence on their toes, while the home side had caused plenty of problems of their own.
As early as the first minute Tom Pope was heading the ball narrowly wide of Nikki Bull’s post and as the half wore on the Blues’ keeper twice smothered shots from Ashley Vincent in one-on-one situations in the box.
Myrie-Williams and Vincent also tried their luck from distance, and far too many crosses were being allowed to rain into the danger zone and test central defenders Johnson and Doherty.
For Wycombe, Morgan curled a free kick narrowly past the post and Scowen had a daisy-cutter saved before firing another chance wide, but they took the lead when Andrade was brought down in the box by McCombe and Grant converted low and to the left despite the keeper’s dive.
An increasingly angry and frustrated home crowd were livid when Mr Boyeson refused them a spot kick of their own after 43 minutes when Pope crashed into Johnson, but the referee would soon do them an even bigger favour.
Kuffour had earlier received a harsh yellow card for his reaction to the latest of a series of dubious challenges from Vale defender McCombe. His second offence was an ill-advised, ill-timed block on Vale keeper Chris Neal, who made a real meal of it. Another soft yellow was brandished, followed by a red, and it was the long walk of shame for Kuffour.
Ironically, the home crowd booed Mr Boyeson off the pitch at half-time.
When Neal took his place between the sticks at the start of the second half to shouts of ‘cheat’ from the visiting fans, his smirk said it all.
The game had changed and Vale swarmed all over Wycombe in the second half. Being down to ten men often makes a team hard to beat, but on this occasion, it didn’t.
There was one fleeting moment of hope after 47 minutes when Joel Grant weaved his way into the box and curled a delightful shot towards the postage stamp, bringing a superb fingertip save out of Neal.
But that was it for Wycombe, it seemed only a matter of time until the floodgates opened and they did when Williamson broke clear and slotted home the equaliser after 59 minutes.
Pope headed home a left-wing cross to give Vale the lead seven minutes later, and he made it 3-1 after 87 minutes with another header from yet another cross.
Vale’s Ashley Vincent scored the goal his performance deserved when he made it 4-1 in stoppage time with a 30 yard drive that Bull parried but failed to prevent from trickling over the line.
Anyone looking for positives would have enjoyed the skills and workrate of Morgan and Grant up-front, and admired the tenacity of Scowen and Lewis in midfield.
It’s also possible to take heart from the first half performance and torment yourself with the thought that a full complement of players after the break might have produced a different outcome.
Ainsworth’s men bounced back quickly after a three goal defeat at Dagenham, now they must do the same again with two consecutive home games against fellow strugglers in the coming week.
As for Vale, they looked solid all over the park and possess a real cutting edge in Pope. It’s easy to see why they’re among the early pacesetters.
Line-up & ratings
Bull (5), Foster (4), Doherty (6), Johnson (6), Dunne (5), Andrade (5) (Spring 49 (5)), Scowen (6) Morais 83 (n/a), Lewis (6), Grant (7) (McClure 68 (5)), Kuffour (4), Morgan (7)
Vale crush Blues after Kuffour dismissal
Port Vale 4 Wycombe Wanderers 1