|Vale of Leven Football & Athletic Club
Millburn Park, Leven Street, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire
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This win sees Vale avoid relegation with a game to spare but how hard they made it for themselves. Needing two points from their final two games news came through that Dunipace had netted twice in the closing minutes to beat Bellshill.
In a dramatic finish stand in skipper Jim Meechan twice had headers stopped before he grabbed a headed winner two minutes from time.
Vale were short on numbers due to injury, suspension and weddings. Captain Alex Lacy, who had struggled on over the past few weeks, finally succumbed to injury with trialist Anton Brown taking his place in defence. Keeper Iain Wyllie dropped back down to the bench due to injury. Ever-present Alan Brown missed his first match of the season.
Meechan headed home
a dramatic late winner
With only 8 minutes on the clock "Gow" got their first chance when Marshall drifted through the middle but with Maclaurin advancing he clipped his shot past the keeper's left hand post. Normal service was resumed with the pacy Wilson breaking down the left but his low cross just failed to be converted by the inrushing McKernan and Boal.
Very much against the run of play "Gow" took the lead after 22 minutes. A mistake by young trialist Brown when he was short with a back header allowed McDade a free run in on goal and he slotted the ball home from 12 yards.
Vale responded with an equaliser within a minute and what a goal it proved to be. Dougie Wilson beating 5 men on a mazy run before firing the ball into the net from just inside the area.
Vale continued to push forward and Hunter had a shot saved after McKernan's pass picked him out. After 29 minutes Meechan's pass out of defence found Ward and he in turn released Boal who rounded the keeper but his cut back just failed to reach the waiting McKernan and Wilson.
Again against the run of play "Gow" went ahead after 31 minutes, Vale failed to clear the ball properly and when the cross came in from the left Marshall killed the ball, turned and smashed a shot high past Maclaurin from 6 yards.
Vale were presented with the perfect opportunity to draw level just 22 seconds into the second half when McKernan was tripped inside the area. After Hamilton was cautioned Hugh Ward stepped up to take the kick but his weakly struck spot kick was pushed away by the diving McGovern.
At that point Vale must have began to wonder if they would ever get a stroke of luck. After 61 minutes they did manage to equalise with no luck required. Hunter's through ball found Brian Smith in an advanced position and he calmly rounded the keeper before slotting the ball into the net from a difficult angle.
It was virtually one way traffic towards the opposition goal and after 84 minutes, following Ward's corner, Jim Meechan saw his header stopped on the line and from the rebound McKernan hit the bar from close range.
With 4 minutes remaining another Ward corner saw Meechan's downward headed tipped over the bar by McGovern.
It seemed that Vale would have to wait until their final game to claim the points they needed but just as they had done 12 years ago they netted a late winner against the "Gow". Ward's low corner was played back to him and when he returned the ball into the area Jim Meechan got his reward for a super performance with the winning goal when he headed home from close range.
A great performance from all the players but for Vale's second goal and a great overall performance Brian Smith was worthy winner of the man of the match.
Team: Maclaurin; Goodwin, Smith, J. Meechan, Anton Brown: Boal, Hunter, Deeley, Ward; Wilson, McKernan (Howie). Unused subs: Lacy, Wyllie and Maclaughlin.