1989 Football League Third Division play-off Final

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1989 Football League Third Division play-off final
Winner
Port Vale (2)
Runner-up
Bristol Rovers (1)
Score
1–1
1–0
Date
31 May 1989
3 June 1989

The 1989 Football League Third Division play-off final was a two-legged football match played at on 31 May and 3 June 1989, to determine the third and final team to gain promotion from the Third Division to the Second Division of The Football League in the 1988–89 season. Port Vale faced Bristol Rovers. It was the final Third Division play-off final to be decided on a two leg basis. From 1990 onwards, matches would be decided at Wembley – or an appropriate national stadium.

Rovers' rivals Bristol City had been defeated in last year's play-off finals after losing the replay 4–0. It was the first time either Rovers or Vale played a play-off final. Rovers had easily disposed of Fulham and Vale had brushed aside Preston North End to reach the final.

The first leg finished 1–1, with Vale's talisman Robbie Earle equalising in the 73rd minute after Gary Penrice had given Rovers the lead in the first half. In the second leg, Earle was the hero once again, scoring the only goal of the game with a 52nd minute header.

Route to the final[edit]

For more details on this topic, see 1988–89 Port Vale F.C. season.
Football League Division Two final table, leading positions
Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 46 26 14 6 96 49 +47 92
2 Sheffield United 46 25 9 12 93 54 +39 84
3 Port Vale 46 24 12 10 78 48 +30 84
4 Fulham 46 22 9 15 69 67 +2 75
5 Bristol Rovers 46 19 17 10 67 51 +16 74
Pos=Position P=Games played W=Wins D=Draws
L=Defeats F=Goals for A=Goals against Pts=Points

Port Vale had finished the 1988–89 Football League season in third place in Division Three, two places ahead of Rovers. Both therefore missed out on the two automatic promotion places and instead took part in the play-offs to determine the third promoted team. Vale had finished level on points with second place Sheffield United, but their inferior goal difference cost them automatic promotion. Fulham took 4th, nine points below Vale and Rovers finished 5th, ten points behind the Vale. Over the course of 46 games both clubs had only lost ten games, Vale's superior goal scoring helped them to win five games more than Rovers.

In the semi-finals, Rovers had on paper the most difficult task in facing 4th placed Fulham, However, Fulham record of conceding a further sixteen goals than Rovers over the course of the season showed and the Bristol side went through in emphatic style – winning 4–0 at home and 1–0 away. Vale's opponents Preston North End proved to be a greater challenge and after a 1–1 tie at Preston, the Vale won 3–1 at home thanks to a Darren Beckford hat-trick. At Preston's ground there was a pitch invasion by the Preston fans after a fire erupted under the wooden slats of their stands. Joan Walley called for an enquiry at Parliament, but no enquiry was made.[1]

Bristol Rovers Round Port Vale
Opponent Result Legs Semi-finals Opponent Result Legs
Fulham 5–0 1–0 away; 4–0 home Preston North End 4–2 1–1 away; 3–1 home

Match summary[edit]

First leg[edit]

The Port Vale first 11 were largely the same eleven that defeated Preston, but with Gary West starting in place of Alan Webb.[2]

John Jeffers saw his chance go begging on the 30th minute mark following a Darren Beckford flick-on from a corner kick.[3] It was Rovers that were the first to score; keeper Nigel Martyn smashed the ball upfield and Gary Penrice volleyed home over a stranded Mark Grew following a Devon White flick-on.[3] Ron Futcher headed into the net just before half-time only to find his goal disallowed for offside.[3]

It was Robbie Earle who equalised seventeen minutes from time to level the tie, heading home a Futcher cross.[3] The Vale nearly won the game in the dying moments only for Beckford's header to be cleared off the goal-line.[3]

Second leg[edit]

Port Vale Manager John Rudge announced an unchanged side from the eleven that held Rovers to a 1–1 draw in the first leg.[2]

The first half finished goalless, meaning Rovers had to press Vale in the second half to score a goal, else face losing the tie on away goals. The second half saw the "MBE" combination pay off, resulting in a Robbie Earle headed goal in the fifty-second minute (ironically Earle would be made an MBE years later). The "MBE" move was a Mills corner, flicked on by Beckford and knocked into the net by Earle.[4] It was to prove the only goal of the game.

"We practised corners for hours, and it certainly paid off. Millsy could put in a brilliant delivery and as soon as it went toward Becky I knew it was coming my way. At the end of the game it was a huge feeling of relief that we had proved a point – we were good enough for promotion. We knew as a group of players we could play at a higher level and this gave us a chance to do so. I had a great time at Vale, and this was the greatest of them all.

—Earle speaking to The Sentinel in 2009.[4]

Post match[edit]

Rovers recovered excellently from the loss and the following season joined Port Vale in the second tier, coming up as champions. Port Vale lasted in the second tier until 1991–92 when they took the wooden spoon with them back to the third tier. In 1992–93, Rovers did the same.

Robbie Earle was sold on to Wimbledon for £775,000 in July 1991 and later appeared in the 1998 FIFA World Cup for Jamaica. Now retired, as of 2009 he is a successful columnist and TV pundit. The man that effectively put Vale in the final – Darren Beckford, was himself sold for £925,000 in 1991, to Norwich. His career however was to go into a decline, and was in the non-leagues by 1998, after retirement he took a career in education. Mastermind of the success John Rudge continued to manage Vale until 1999 when he was sacked in a very controversial decision by chairman Bill Bell. He then became Director of Football at rivals Stoke City, a position that as of December 2009 he still holds.

Match details[edit]

First leg[edit]

31 May 1989
15:00 BST
Bristol Rovers 1 – 1 Port Vale
Penrice Goal Earle Goal 73'
Twerton Park, Bath
Attendance: 9,042[2]
Bristol Rovers:
GK 1 England Nigel Martyn
DF 2 Scotland Ian Alexander
DF 3 England Billy Clark
DF 4 England Steve Yates
FW 5 England Devon White
DF 6 Wales Vaughan Jones (c)
MF 7 England Ian Holloway Substituted off
MF 8 England David Mehew
MF 9 England Andy Reece
FW 10 England Gary Penrice
MF 11 England Phil Purnell
Substitutes:
FW England Christian McClean Substituted in
Manager:
England Gerry Francis
Port Vale:
GK 1 England Mark Grew
DF 2 England Simon Mills
DF 3 England Darren Hughes
MF 4 England Ray Walker
DF 5 England Gary West
DF 6 England Dean Glover
MF 7 England John Jeffers
MF 8 Jamaica Robbie Earle
FW 9 England Ron Futcher
FW 10 England Darren Beckford
MF 11 England Andy Porter
Manager:
England John Rudge

Second leg[edit]

3 June 1989
15:00 BST
Port Vale 1 – 0 Bristol Rovers
Earle Goal 52'
Vale Park, Stoke-on-Trent
Attendance: 17,343[2]
Port Vale:
GK 1 England Mark Grew
DF 2 England Simon Mills
DF 3 England Darren Hughes
MF 4 England Ray Walker
DF 5 England Gary West
DF 6 England Dean Glover
MF 7 England John Jeffers
MF 8 Jamaica Robbie Earle
FW 9 England Ron Futcher
FW 10 England Darren Beckford
MF 11 England Andy Porter Substituted off
Substitutes:
FW 12 England Kevin Finney Substituted in
Manager:
England John Rudge
Bristol Rovers:
GK 1 England Nigel Martyn
DF 2 Scotland Ian Alexander
DF 3 England Billy Clark
DF 4 England Steve Yates
FW 5 England Devon White
DF 6 Wales Vaughan Jones (c)
MF 7 England Ian Holloway
MF 8 England David Mehew
MF 9 England Andy Reece
FW 10 England Gary Penrice
MF 11 England Phil Purnell
Manager:
England Gerry Francis

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kent, Jeff. The Valiants' Years: The Story of Port Vale. Witan Books. p. 286. ISBN 0-9508981-4-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d Kent, Jeff. The Port Vale Record 1879–1993. Witan Books. p. 225. ISBN 0-9508981-9-8. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Sherwin, Phil (28 August 2010). "Memory Match: Bristol Rovers 1 Port Vale 1 May 31, 1989". The Sentinel. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Vale heroes completed mission thanks to MBE". The Sentinel. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2009.