Joe Garner was a thorn in Port Vale’s side once again as Preston North End won 2-0 against 10-man Vale in a fiery affair at Deepdale.
Paul Gallagher’s sublime first time strike opened the scoring in the 42nd minute after Garner and Neil Kilkenny combined to tee up the attacker.
Vale fans booed PNE striker Garner from the start after last season’s controversial red card decision at Vale Park that saw Kilkenny mistakenly identified as Garner. The striker remained on the pitch and went on to score the winner that night and he was in the action yet again at Deepdale.
In the 12th minute the striker appeared to be elbowed in the face by Vale defender Stephane Zubar as they challenged for the ball in the air but referee Mick Russell waved away the appeal.
But Zubar did receive his marching orders in the 78th minute after another incident with the striker.
Zubar climbed on top of Garner as they both battled for an aerial ball. Garner went down under the challenge and whilst the striker was on the ground Zubar jabbed his hand into Garner’s face.
The referee didn’t see the incident but pulled play back and gave the Vale defender a straight red card.
Three minutes later Alan Browne put the icing on the cake for PNE as his deflected shot wrong-footed Vale keeper Chris Neal and trickled home to fire North End to fourth in the League One table.
Manager Simon Grayson made three changes to the side that beat Port Vale in their last clash before the international break 11 days ago.
John Welsh missed out on a place in the squad as Thorsten Stuckmann and Paul Huntington dropped to the bench.
Young Irish midfielder Browne and Scott Wiseman returned to the starting XI after missing PNE’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second round 3-2 victory over Vale due to international duty.
PNE keeper Jamie Jones was named in the starting line-up as Port Vale’s interim manager Rob Page named an unchanged XI from last Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Yeovil.
Kyel Reid made his first league start for Preston North End after signing from Bradford City in the summer and impressed on the left wing.
The winger made his first start for the Lilywhites last week against Vale at Deepdale and maintained his place in the side.
Kevin Davies has recovered from a broken rib and came on for a late cameo whilst Bailey Wright was rested because of an on-going groin problem.
Reid teed-up Garner in the box the striker tussled with Vale Defender Richard Duffy before turning and shooting straight at Neal in the 10th minute.
Garner fell to the ground clutching his face in the 12th minute after an aerial collision with Stephane Zubar on the half-way line. Referee Mick Russell liaised with linesman Nicholas Barnard and decided not to penalise the Vale defender who appeared to elbow Garner in the face.
Browne’s 20-yard shot in the 22nd minute took a wicked deflection off Zubar before flying agonisingly wide of Neal’s right hand post.
After Reid’s cross the loose ball fell to Paul Gallagher, the Scotsman laid the ball back to Neil Kilkenny on the edge of the Vale box and the Australian’s fierce strike just skimmed inches over the bar in the 24th minute.
Gallagher tried his luck from distance in the 27th minute but his effort flew straight at Neal who parried the ball and comfortably
And the Scot attempted the spectacular moments later but his 30-yard effort flew way wide of Vale keeper Neal’s goal.
Kilkenny fouled Michael O’Connor just outside PNE’s penalty box. The Vale midfielder dusted himself down to send the resulting set piece whistling inches past Jones’ right hand post.
Garner nearly opened the scoring in acrobatic fashion in the 32nd minute. PNE’s star striker skilfully fired an overhead kick towards the bottom right corner but a diving Neal was on hand to tip the spectacular effort round the post.
In the 38th minute referee Mick Russell waved away PNE’s penalty appeal after Tom Clarke’s header appeared to strike a Port Vale hand in the box.
But PNE took the lead 10 minutes later as Garner cut through Vale’s defence before merging his run with Kilkenny who snapped the ball up and dribbled it into the path of Gallagher. The Scot picked his spot and fired a fierce first time shot past Neal in the 42nd minute.
And Garner nearly doubled the host’s advantage just before the break as he leapt up and guided Reid’s corner towards the left hand corner of goal but the ball flew agonisingly wide of the post.
Vale striker Tom Pope was booked for arguing with the referee after the half-time whistle was blown.
Straight after the re-start Gallagher unleashed another thunderous strike. The attacker sweetly connected with Chris Humphrey’s cross-field ball and fizzed a first-time half-volley inches wide of the left post in the 47th minute.
To the home fans disgust Garner was booked for running into the back of Duffy in the 55th minute. The striker appealed for obstruction but the referee waved away his claims.
Duffy was booked for fouling Humphrey as the Jamaica international raced down the right wing in the 63rd minute.
And Clarke nearly buried a back post header from the subsequent free-kick. But PNE’s captain could not direct the ball downwards as he tore into the six-yard box and it looped over the bar.
Zubar was sent off in the 78th minute for an altercation with Garner. The defender climbed over Garner as they went for an aerial ball in Vale’s half and when the striker was thrown to the ground the defender leaned over the striker and jabbed Garner’s face. Play went on but the referee was alerted to the incident and gave the defender a straight red.
Browne heaped more misery on the visitors as his deflected shot from just outside the box deceived Neal and rolled into the net in the 81st minute. The keeper dived to his left but the ball hit a Vale player, diverted path and nestled in the bottom left corner.
PNE: Jones, Wiseman, Clarke, King, Buchanan, Kilkenny, Browne, Humphrey (Hayhurst, 90), Gallagher, Reid (Robinson, 70), Garner (K Davies, 83). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Laird, Huntington, Brownhill, Hayhurst.
Port Vale: Neal, Yates, Dickinson, Duffy (McGivern, 64), Dodds (Daniel, 69), Williamson (Moore, 69), Lines, Pope, O’Connor, Marshall, Zubar. Subs not used: Johnson, Birchall, Brown, Streete.
Referee: Mick Russell (Hertfordshire)
Attendance: 9,381 away (612 Port Vale)