MATCH REPORT: Wembley heartbreak for Mansfield Town as they lose Port Vale showdown 3-0 with 10 men after Oli Hawkins red card

Mansfield Town's thrilling season ended in Wembley heartbreak as they were beaten 3-0 by Port Vale in today's League Two play-off final and handicapped by Oli Hawkins' 35th minute red card.

Saturday, 28th May 2022, 6:18 pm

Stags' dreams of League One football disintegrated inside four nightmare first half minutes as Kian Harratt and James Wilson put Vale in charge.

Hawkins was then needlessly sent off for two silly challenges inside five minutes and that left Nigel Clough's men with too big a mountain to climb on the wide open space of the national stadium.

Vale even had two efforts ruled out for offside after the break before former Mansfield star Mal Benning crowned a fine afternoon against his old club with the third five minutes from time.

The Stags players look on as Vale score a second - Pic by : Richard Parkes

It could all have been so different had Jamie Murphy not headed straight at former Stags keeper Aidan Stone after nine minutes or had Rhys Oates effort just before the break fully crossed the line before it was hooked away.

Stags started slowly when Clough had wanted them to make the early running and were made to pay as Vale took charge.

It had been a season to savour with two club records broken.

But Stags had failed to beat Vale in their two league outings and Wembley was to be no different as Port Vale boss and ex-Stags hero Darrell Clarke, who had suffered a major recent family bereavement, broke down in tears at the end at his achievement against his hometown club.

James Wilson heads home Vale’s second - Pic by : Richard Parkes

The day had started in such celebratory mood for the Mansfield fans with scarves out the windows on a packed M1 heading south for the big day out.

The Stags side showed two changes from the Northampton semi-final second leg with midfielders Jamie Murphy and Matty Longstaff replacing Lucas Akins and Keiran Wallace, who both dropped to the bench.

O'Toole was again employed in a defensive midfield role but had to drop back into defence after Hawkins' dismissal.

Port Vale were unchanged from the side that saw off Swindon Town in their semi last week.

Referee Jarred Gillett sends off Oliver Hawkins - Pic by : Richard Parkes

The atmosphere grew as Stags fans and Vale fans poured into the stadium on a warm afternoon with the sun occasionally breaking through the clouds above the famous stadium.

Managers Clough and Clarke embraced warmly before kick-off.

Wilson caused Stags some early problems on the left of the box and Taylor had a shot charged down in the opening exchanges.

Quinn felt the full effects of a Worrall challenge on six minutes but was able to continue.

Theshellshcoked Stags players make their way onto the pitch early for the second half - Pic by : Richard Parkes

The noise levels from the Stags fans increased as their side forced the first two corners of the match, but Vale cleared their lines.

Stags then had the first chance of the game as Longstaff put the ball over from the right, defender Gibbons missed it and the ball sailed to an unmarked Murphy who, six yards out, headed straight at a grateful Stone.

On 14 minutes Stone had to leave his box to head clear before Oates reached a long forward ball.

Perch then calmly beat Harratt to a long ball and headed back to Bishop and, soon after, Garrity tried to slip Harratt clear but Bishop was quickly there to smother the danger.

Vale then came the closest we had seen to a goal with a powerful low Harratt shot that came back off the foot of the right hand post on 19 minutes, the player's celebrations cut shot as he thought it was going on.

But Harratt was celebrating a minute later as he scored the breakthrough goal.

Benning put in a teasing low cross from the left and Harratt stooped to bury a low header from six yards.

Gibbons then played a neat one-two to get into the Stags box before blazing a finish well over as Vale had Stags wobbling alarmingly.

The second goal was not in coming. Gibbons again got down the right and crossed, Garrity's dipping header coming back off the crossbar and Wilson perfectly place to head home the follow-up.

A Stags attack was then halted as Hawkins was spotted holding a Vale player off the ball and was booked with 30 minutes gone.

Wilson sliced a 20 yard effort over on 32 minutes Bishop had to save a Benning finish from the left after he had been picked out by a great Taylor pass.

Mansfield's day went from bad to worse on 35 minutes as Hawkins was sent off for a second booking inside five minutes.

He went into a needless late tackle on Wilson and could have no complaints as the red card was shown and Mansfield were left with a mountain to climb.

Stags almost found a way back into the contest as Oates turned a low shot goalwards and, with Stone beaten, Hall cleared off the line with Stags claiming the ball had crossed the line. The replays showed not the whole of the ball had crossed and Vale had escaped.

Hewitt was added to the book on 44 minutes as he caught Taylor while trying to clear down the line.

Five minutes were added in which Smith headed over from a Benning free kick to the far post and Perch was booked on 45+4 for his foul on Garrity which saw Wilson inches wide with his 28 yard free kick.

There was still time for Wilson to cut in from the left and send a low shot into the arms of Bishop as Vale finished a disastrous half for Mansfield well on top.

Stags survived an early Vale corner after the break, then Taylor lashed a first time shot just wide from a half-clearance on 53 minutes as they looked for a killer third goal.

A minute later Stags sent on an injection of energy in Lapslie, replacing Murphy.

Quinn sent over a corner for Stags on the hour which was cleared to McLaughlin who lashed a low shot wide from 20 yards.

Mansfield had a let-off on 64 minutes as a left wing corner saw Garrity turn the ball on target, Bishop save and Harratt tuck away the loose ball, only to see an offside flag deny him.

Maris replaced Longstaff as Clough made his second roll of the dice on 65 minutes.

Vale had a second goal disallowed for offside on 70 minutes. More great work down the left from Benning saw him curl an inviting low ball to the far post where ex-Stag Charsley, who had only come on four minutes earlier, turned it home only to find he had gone fractionally too early.

On 72 minutes Stone made his first save of the afternoon as he beat away a fierce Oates snapshot from 18 yards.

Oates went close again two minutes later with a 20 yard shot that went wide of the left post.

Akins replaced Quinn with 11 minutes to go and Vale holding onto their precious two-goal advantage.

Former Stags hero Benning rubbed Mansfield noses into the grind with Vale's third five minutes from time.

Worrall sent over a long cross from wide on the right and Benning raced in to bury a low volley at the far post.

The Mansfield Town end was emptying by this point as they knew the game was well and truly up with the final whistle bringing wild Vale celebrations and Stags players flat out on the pitch, exhausted and heartbroken.

STAGS: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hewitt, Murphy (Lapslie 54), Bowery, Hawkins, Perch, Quinn (Akins 79), Oates, O'Toole, Longstaff (Maris 65). SUBS NOT USED: Clarke, Wallace, Stech, Stirk.VALE: Stone, Gibbons, Smith, Hall, Benning, Worrall (Martin 86), Garrity, Pett, Taylor (Charsley 66), Harratt (Proctor 77), Wilson. SUBS NOT USED: Covolan, Robinson, Amoo, Edmondson.REFEREE: Jarred Gillett.

ATTENDANCE: 37,303.