2001 Football League Trophy Final
|Event||2000–01 Football League Trophy|
|Date||22 April 2001|
|Venue||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff|
|Man of the Match||Dave Brammer|
The 2001 Football League Trophy Final (known as the LDV Vans Trophy for sponsorship reasons) was the 18th final of the Football League Trophy, the domestic football cup competition for teams from the Football League Second and Third Divisions. It was the first League Trophy final played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, previous such matches were played at Wembley and the new stadium was yet to be built. The match was contested by Port Vale and Brentford on 22 April 2001. Port Vale won the match 2–1 with Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Steve Brooker the scorers.
The 2001 Football League Trophy Final was the second such game for both clubs. Port Vale had defeated Stockport County 2–1 in 1993 and Brentford had lost 3–1 to Wigan Athletic in 1985. The year previous to Vale's original first title, rivals Stoke City had taken home the trophy. Stoke were the winners of the 2000 final, so a "keeping up with the Joneses" mindset gave Vale extra motivation to win in 2001.
Port Vale, based in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent and London based Brentford had little reason to take note of each other before facing each other in the final. They had previously been restricted to league encounters and the final was the first cup fixture between the two clubs. Earlier in the 2000–01 season both games had finished as 1–1 draws; Widdrington and Owusu scoring at Vale Park, Evans and Bridge-Wilkinson the scorers at Griffin Park. Both clubs finished the season in mid-table; Vale in 11th and Brentford in 14th, just three points separating them after 46 games. All the evidence pointed to a close match.
Route to the final
In the Second Round Vale had a home fixture against the only non-league team in the competition – Chester City had suffered relegation from the Football League the previous season, they duly won 2–0. Brentford had a more tricky fixture; facing eventual Third Division champions Brighton & Hove Albion at the Withdean. Yet the fixture actually took place at Brentford's home ground, with the score 2–2 it took a penalty shoot-out to end the tie.
The Area Quarter-final was also favourable to Vale, they took apart Third Division strugglers Darlington 4–0 at Vale Park. Brentford had another away fixture, they beat Barnet at the Underhill Stadium.
Port Vale found their challenge in the Area Semi-finals, despite it being a home tie the fixture was actually played at the Britannia Stadium, against their rivals and last season's winners Stoke City. It took extra time to separate the teams, Micky Cummins put the Vale ahead before Nicky Mohan scored a late equaliser. A Marc Bridge-Wilkinson penalty in the 105th minute gave the Burslem club a night of celebration. The next day Brentford travelled to Vetch Field in Wales, where they neutered Swansea City with a 3–2 win.
The Area Finals were two-legged fixtures, Port Vale against Lincoln City and Brentford against Southend United. At Sincil Bank Bridge-Wilkinson and Naylor gave the "Valiants" a 2–0 victory. At Roots Hall Michael Dobson gave the "Bees" a 2–1 victory despite Spencer Whelan's best efforts. In the second leg the Vale Park fixture was goalless, Lincoln doing little to trouble Vale. The Brentford game was rather more eventful, Ívar Ingimarsson and Lloyd Owusu scored Brentford's two goals to Southend's one – scored by Damon Searle.
The tone of the game was set by Vale's dominant five-man midfield, with Brammer the engine that drove the "Valiants" search for an equaliser as Brentford struggled to keep pace. It was Brammer who made the Vale's intentions clear; sending a long-range strike goal ward, only for it to be deflected wide.
Whereas Burton made the Brentford defence nervous from set pieces, misers Naylor, Brooker and Bridge-Wilkinson presented the danger from open play. On the 20-minute mark, Naylor pulled back a ball which Bridge-Wilkinson hooked wide. This was to prove their most dangerous movement of the half.
However Brentford could not rely on help from the officials for long and on the 76th minute, when Powell brought down Naylor on the edge of the area, the referee signalled for a penalty. Bridge-Wilkinson converted, sending Gottskalksson the wrong way.
Seven minutes later and the Burslem club had the lead; Naylor won the ball from Mahon deep in the Brentford half. He squared the ball to Brooker, who struck his shot sweetly, leaving Vale 2–1 up on 83 minutes.
Brentford then piled on the pressure and had numerous late chances; the first falling to substitute McCammon whose first touch of the game was a poor header that could have found the net if it was well placed. The last kick of the game could have taken it to extra time, however Owusu headed wide from Gottskálksson's overhead kick – the Brentford goalkeeper doing more than making up the numbers in the Vale box during the last seconds of injury time.
Fair credit to Port Vale who deserved it – we were disappointing and we didn't play well.— Ray Lewington
The game was one rare glimpse of glory for Port Vale, instead of signalling a return to the happy days they enjoyed under John Rudge it was a rare high point before relegation to League Two in 2007–08. In 2006–07 Brentford finished bottom of League One before being crowned champions of League Two in 2008–09. They reached the final of the Football League Trophy again in 2011, only to lose to Carlisle United.
The trophy was Brian Horton's only major honour at Port Vale, his five-year reign ended with his resignation in February 2004, after disagreements with the board over both his contract and the playing budget. After an unsuccessful two years as manager of Macclesfield Town he joined the staff at Hull City, who soon found themselves playing top-flight football. The match was Ray Lewington last in charge at Brentford, he left for Watford, becoming their manager the next year. After being sacked from Watford in 2005 he joined the staff at Fulham.
The young Marc Bridge-Wilkinson continued to impress at Vale Park and since leaving in 2004 continued to be a player in demand, following the final he spent the next seven seasons in League One. Steve Brooker also departed in 2004, spending 2004 to 2009 at Bristol City he also became a top performer in League One. Brentford's Michael Dobson stayed at Griffin Park until 2006, he played for Walsall from 2006 to 2008, leaving the game at the age of 27 to set up his own business. Man of the Match Dave Brammer was voted Port Vale F.C. Player of the Year, and retired in 2009 with 496 competitive appearances to his name.
|Bridge-Wilkinson 76' (pen.)
- "Ten Years Ago Today". port-vale.co.uk. 22 April 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
- "Port Vale's route to Cardiff". BBC Sport. 18 April 2001. Retrieved 25 June 2009.[permanent dead link]
- "Brentford's route to Cardiff". BBC Sport. 18 April 2001. Retrieved 25 June 2009.[permanent dead link]
- "Matt Carragher tribute: The day he captained Vale to Trophy glory". Stoke Sentinel. 30 December 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
- "Vale vault Brentford to lift Vans trophy". BBC Sport. 22 April 2001. Retrieved 25 June 2009.