Port Vale 2 (McKirdy 26, Mills 80) Wolves U21s 1 (Perry 19)
Wolves under-21s’ brave showing wasn’t enough at Port Vale on Tuesday evening, as their Papa John’s Trophy adventure for the season was ended following a 2-1 loss at Vale Park.
Taylor Perry’s sweetly-struck effort gave James Collins’ side the perfect start in Staffordshire, but the League Two side’s experience eventually told and Vale fought back to win through Harry McKirdy and Zac Mills strikes.
It’s a competition Wolves impressed in this term, getting the better of Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers previously, and they gave the Valiants a run for their money, before running out of steam in the closing stages.
Not deterred by a swirling wind and torrential rain in Burslem, Wolves’ youngsters quickly set about their task and would have taken the lead, had Conor Carty’s deft effort from Theo Corbeanu’s cross not bounced back off the top of the crossbar after a matter of minutes.
Disappointment was nowhere to be seen however, but more encouragement, and when Ki-Jana Hoever salvaged a lost ball on the byline, they were in, as the Dutchman’s deep cross was put back into a dangerous area and Perry drilled a powerful strike into the bottom corner, with Dino Visser rooted to the spot in goal.
However, that joy was short-lived. Vale rallied soon after falling behind and when a loose ball fell invitingly to McKirdy inside the box, the midfielder planted a side-footed effort out of the reach of Andreas Sondergaard to ensure the sides went in all square.
After the break, Wolves were similarly positive and Corbeanu’s swinging effort kissed the crossbar on its way over. Sondergaard remained busy at the other end too however and needed both palms to push over a powerful McKirdy strike.
The entertainment remained throughout and Lewis Richards attempted to squeeze an effort inside Visser’s near post, but the goalkeeper made the save. While the effort remained, Wolves did begin to tire and Port Vale’s nous came to the fore, which was key for the winner. A cross wasn’t properly cleared by Bueno and Mills rifled an effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Wolves piled bodies forward in the closing stages, while Sondergaard kept them in it at the other end, but no further goals would follow and Wolves bowed out in the knockout stages of the competition.
It’s derby day up next for the under-23s, who meet West Bromwich Albion in the PL2 at the Birmingham County FA.
14/12 West Bromwich Albion (A)
18/12 Norwich City (A)
18/01 Burnley (A)
24/01 Leeds (H)
01/02 Stoke City (A)
Port Vale: Visser, Smith, Pope, Conlon (Joyce 46), Cullen (Robinson 46), Mills, Brisley, Burgess, McKirdy (Worrall 70), Fitzpatrick, Hurst.
Unused subs: Brown, Montano, Rodney.
Wolves: Sondergaard, Hoever, Buur (Lonwijk 81), Marques, Richards, Bueno, Cundle, Shabani, Perry, Corbeanu, Carty (Hesketh 79).
Unused subs: Young, Matheson, Estrada, Wan, Harkin.