This was nowhere near Port Vale’s worst FA Cup defeat but judging the result by those standards is setting the bar low.
Defeat to King’s Lynn Town comes 20 years to the month since the Vale were knocked out at home to Ryman Premier League side Canvey Island in a first-round replay, an infamous exit which seemed about as bad as it could get….right up until the Vale managed to lose at a Chasetown side 108 places below them in the football pyramid in their 2007/08 second-round replay.
Compared to that utter humiliation, this was a pretty routine result to a ‘non-league’ team who are actually only one division below the Vale.
Feeling better? Nope, me neither.
John Askey described the result as a ‘kick in the teeth’ but it would have felt like a kick to rather more tender regions than that.
The consolation is that, if Vale can push towards the automatic promotion places by beating Tranmere at home in the league on Saturday, then the acute pain of this defeat will start to feel more of a dull ache.
At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, they’ll have to play better than this.
Compared to the standards they have set in rising to seventh in League Two, Vale were pedestrian and lethargic, although they might have still squeezed though had they been a little more clinical.
Instead, as half chances came and went, seasoned Vale watchers, in the ground and on iFollow at home, would have been steeling themselves for King’s Lynn to create an opportunity and take it.
Sure enough, substitute Adam Marriott was played into the right of the area on 82 minutes, got between Adam Crookes and Leon Legge and then jinked past Nathan Smith before cutting the ball back for 19-year-old midfielder Sonny Carey to smash the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards.
Vale never threatened an equaliser so instead were left to rue near misses, in the first half when Tom Pope had a header saved by another 19 year old, the on-loan Norwich City keeper Archie Mair who produced even better stops to keep out Tom Conlon and Dave Worrall.
Mair was at it again after the break when he foiled Mitch Clark from close range, but enjoyed some fortune when he could only parry Tom Conlon’s low drive but was saved by the offside flag when Worrall slid in to score from the rebound.
Askey insisted that goal should have stood, but said that wasn’t an excuse for his team’s overall performance.
King’s Lynn are used to winning games, having just earned back-to-back promotions, so perhaps drew on some of that belief as they defended solidly and chose their moments to spring into attack.
They actually had the best chance of the first half when Simon Power sped into the left of the area but fired into the side-netting, but were mostly content to frustrate Vale and wait for their opportunity.
Maybe this result shows there’s not a huge difference between League Two and the National League. King’s Lynn, 17th in that division, certainly provided much tougher, more resolute opposition than Southend had managed in Vale’s 2-0 win at Roots Hall in their last league game.
But that was Vale’s third league win on the spin, which made this result all the more surprising, especially as Askey had resisted any temptation to rest or rotate players and had named exactly the same starting XI as last week.
The manager said: “They came with a game plan but we had enough chances. Whatever their game plan was, we have to take our opportunities, and we had more than enough.
“It’s poor finishing on numerous occasions, but we also had the one that we did score from and was a perfectly good goal. That obviously changes things but while you are not free scoring then you are always susceptible.
“There were one or two who, from the off, I thought weren’t at it. I don’t know why because it is such an important game. They are only in the league below us so it’s not as though there is that much difference ability wise.
“So, you have to make sure that you have the same attitude that you have every other week. If you don’t then what happened here can happen.”
King’s Lynn manager Ian Culverhouse was understandably a good deal more cheerful, saying: “It is a hell of a result for this football club.
“They deserve all the plaudits, every one of them – they were all magnificent.
“You don’t get too carried away with the highs and with the lows, but that result will do them a world of good – they’ll all be buzzing.
“Archie Mair was magnificent, too – he had a lot to do, but we also defended ever so well and we had enough bodies in there if we didn’t make the first contact.
“For the goal, Adam Marriott made a hell of a run, and he jinked and jinked and the ball fell to Sonny, and you couldn’t have asked for a better strike.
“We knew they would come at us first in the first 15, and we were stretched, but we hung on and we deserved the win.”
This was Vale’s first FA Cup defeat at home to non-league opposition since they went out to Scarborough in 2003. So, yes, we have been here before. It just doesn’t help.