REPORT: Port Vale 2-1 Mansfield Town - Stags’ automatic promotion aspirations take a blow

Mansfield Town's Nicky Ajose looks on as Ports Vale goalkeeper Scott Brown saves his penalty: Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com, Football: EFL League 2 match Port Vale -V- Mansfield Town at Vale Park, Burslem, Staffordshire, England on 09/03/2019: copyright picture Howard Roe 07973 739229
Mansfield Town's Nicky Ajose looks on as Ports Vale goalkeeper Scott Brown saves his penalty: Picture by Steve Flynn/AHPIX.com, Football: EFL League 2 match Port Vale -V- Mansfield Town at Vale Park, Burslem, Staffordshire, England on 09/03/2019: copyright picture Howard Roe 07973 739229

Mansfield Town’s League Two automatic promotion aspirations took a blow as Ricky Miller’s second-half brace earned struggling Port Vale a 2-1 win at Vale Park.

Miller’s brace, which he struck twice inside a minute after half-time in Staffordshire saw Mansfield drop down to fourth with defeat, as MK Dons leapfrogged them in to third position in the fourth-tier.

Early in the contest, Mansfield were pinned in to their own half of the pitch, as David Worrall twice went close for John Askey’s Valiants.

Firstly, the forward drove a fierce shot from the right just over the crossbar before he forced Stags stopper Jordan Smith in to a low save at his near post.

Having dealt with early pressure from the relegation-threatened hosts, David Flitcroft’s side were awarded a penalty on 17 minutes after CJ Hamilton was tripped in the box by centre-back Leon Legge.

Forward Nicky Ajose assumed responsibility for the resulting spot-kick, however he was fruitless from 12-yards, seeing Vale goalkeeper Scott Brown equal to his effort, dropping down to his left to tip the ball around the post and out for a corner.

But two quick-fire strikes from Miller within the space of a minutes left Town with a mountain to climb.

Miller was played through by Manny Oyeleke with 50 minutes played, and the midfielder kept his cool to round Smith and tap in, before doubling his tally a minute later, smashing in from very close-range following a defensive lapse in concentration.

But the Stags were back in it on the hour when Ajose made amends for his penalty miss by heading in Otis Khan’s cross from the right.

Town pushed for a leveller that never came in the dying embers as they dropped down to fourth, a point behind MK Dons, in the automatic promotion race.