Bristol Rovers had a twice-taken penalty from Junior Agogo to thank for a 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory over an unlucky Port Vale side at the Ballacloan Stadium in Ramsey, watched by 649 spectators.
The Valiants started by far the better and on ten minutes Kevin Miller saved with his legs from Mick Cummins after a Steve Brooker through ball.
Brooker was a constant threat to the Rovers rearguard and went close on a couple of occasions before the 25th minute when Cummins dragged a shot just wide after an excellent lay-off from man of the match Ian Armstrong.
On 33 minutes Vale finally took the lead against a defensively-minded Rovers outfit. Brooker was again involved as he headed back across goal from a Jeff Smith cross for Simon Eldershaw to head home powerfully into the far bottom corner.
Rovers woke up after the break and equalised on 51 minutes. Mark Goodlad in the Vale goal could only push out a left-wing cross from ex-Oxford striker Dave Savage straight into the path of James Hunt who gleefully bundled the ball home.
Vale deservedly regained the lead on 58 minutes as another excellent ball from Smith sent Brooker racing clear to chip over an advancing Miller from just inside the box.
For the first time in the match the Pirates piled forward in search of another equaliser. Craig Hinton went close on 66 minutes when his hot was cleared off the line by Simon Robinson following a goalmouth scramble.
Substitute Levi Reid had one of Vale’s few second-half chances in the 74th minute as he fired marginally wide after a lay-off from the hardworking Robinson gave him a clear sight on goal.
Rovers finally grabbed their leveller in the 80th minute when a seemingly innocuous ball to the edge of the box fell to the feet of substitute Richard Walker who delicately lobbed Goodlad from 20 yards out.
The Pirates came the closest to claming the victory in normal time as both Agogo and Paul Trollope had shots blocked in the last five minutes as the young Vale midfield struggled to cope with the onslaught.
Goodlad again saved well from Agogo in injury time to keep the score to 2-2 and force a tense penalty shoot-out.
Chris Birchill and Craig James netted for Vale whilst Walker and Ali Gibb replied for Rovers to make to score 2-2. Billy Paynter then saw his spot-kick saved whilst Hinton netted to give Rovers a 3-2 advantage.
A Reid conversion and a miss by Savage pulled the score back to penalties each.
Smith then put Vale into a 4-3 lead and with Agogo needing to score to keep the Pirates in it referee Phillip Walton intervened to de-rail a Valiant victory.
Agogo’s penalty hit the underside of the bar and came out but Walton had seen some encroachment by Goodlad and ordered the penalty to be re-taken, Agogo not missing a second time.
Robinson and keeper Miller both converted as Eldershaw then had his penalty saved to leave Stewart Campbell able to stroke home the winning spot-kick to give Rovers a highly contentious 6-5 shoot-out victory.
The defeat leaves Vale bottom of Group A while Rovers face Wreham on Tuesday night for a place in Saturday’s final.
Port Vale :
Mark Goodlad, Simon Robinson, Dean Smith, Sam Collins (Steve Rowland 46), Craig James, Ian Armstrong (Chris Birchill 83), Mick Cummins (Ryan Brown 72), Robin Hulbert (Levi Reid 60), Jeff Smith, Steve Brooker (Billy Paynter 62), Simon Eldershaw.
Unused subs : Johnny Brain + Lee Matthews.
Bristol Rovers :
Kevin Miller, Craig Hinton, Robbie Ryan (Junior Agogo 46), Paul Trollope, Liam Burns (Jon Beswetherick 46), John Anderson (Stewart Campbell 34), Ali Gibb, James Hunt (Craig Disley 76), Lee Thorpe, David Savage, Jamie Forrester (Richard Walker 76).
Unused subs : Lewis Haldane + Ryan Williams.
Referee : W Cowley
Tim Graham (thetashkentterror)