It was a tale of three penalties at Vale Park as ten men Vale snatched a point against the Lilywhites, despite the two spot kicks being their only shots on target.
Daniel Johnson gave the Lilywhites the lead after only 12 minutes from the edge of the box, but two controversial spot kicks at the start of the second half were the talking points.
Firstly the home side levelled through Michael O’Connor from 12 yards after Tom Clarke was adjudged to have fouled substitute Tom Pope, however, Richard Duffy was then sent off for handling on the line and Joe Garner fired home the resulting 12 yard effort.
However, with five minutes to go O’Connor was upended by Welsh and then scored in the same spot as the first penalty to snatch a point for Rob Page's Valiants.
Paul Huntington was back in the North End line-up, replacing Calum Woods, with skipper Tom Clarke moving to right back for the yellows, backed by a packed away end at Vale Park.
It was an action-packed first half with the home side seemingly intent on trying to turn it into a fight, with the aim of getting North End down to ten or nine men.
The Lilywhites started brightly and had three chances before the opening goal. On four minutes a long ball from Bailey Wright over the top saw Joe Garner – much maligned by the home fans - race through; he in turn threaded the ball on to Jermaine Beckford, but his shot was blocked for a corner by a combination of Duffy and Neal. From Gallagher’s corner it flashed through everyone and Clarke at the back post powered a header just over the bar.
Shortly after Garner had an effort from 35 yards, former PNE man Chris Neal palming the ball onto the post. A brace of corners followed from the left, Gallagher delivering.
Before the ten minute mark Garner saw another shot blocked by Duffy after Neal spilt a Gallagher free kick in the box – their were huge shouts for handball from the PNE players – but match official Richard Clark waved away the claims.
However, on the 12 minute mark the visitors opened the scoring. Daniel Johnson grabbed his eighth goal of the season from the edge of box after another Paul Gallagher corner was headed down by Paul Huntington back to the edge of the box.
Just before the 20 minute mark Neal saved superbly from Callum Robinson’s curling 25 yard effort after pressure down the left by PNE.
In the five minutes before the interval there were two good chances to double the lead. Firstly yet another Gallagher corner was headed just over the bar by Joe Garner from the edge of the six yard box and then Johnson had another effort from the edge of the box but this time straight into the arms of Neal.
Six minutes into the second half and the home side were thrown a lifeline as referee Richard Clark awarded them a penalty as a ball in from the right saw Tom Clarke apparently bring down Tom Pope at the back post, although the forward laughed in disbelief at being awarded it himself!
Michael O’Connor stepped up and sent Sam Johnstone the wrong way, firing hard to the keeper’s left – it was their first shot of the game of any sort!
On the hour mark the game the Lilywhites were back ahead and it was another penalty. Richard Duffy was sent off for handling a shot on the line from Tom Clarke's shot.
After three minutes of a delay whilst Duffy left the field, Joe Garner waited and Michael Brown was booked for delaying the penalty and then the No.14 sent Chris Neal the wrong way from the spot for his 22nd goal of the season.
Up the other end the home side responded and saw Mark Marshall have a shot that was well saved by Sam Johnstone down low to his left hand side.
Callum Robinson then forced Neal into a smart save low to his left after some good build up play involving Garner and Beckford with the on loan Villa man caressing an effort from the edge of the ‘D’.
But a third penalty of the game was awarded with five minutes to go when John Welsh brought down Michael O’Connor right on the edge of the box and the midfielder stepped up to again send the keeper the wrong way and bulge the back of the net.
Kevin Davies and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake were both sent on for the Lilywhites with Jermaine Beckford and John Welsh making way with the official signalling five minutes of stoppage time.
The Lilywhites threw everything forward, but the ten men held strong and earned a point.
: Neal, Dickinson (c), Duffy, Dodds (Yates, 61), Williamson (Coulibaly, 76), O’Connor, Collins, Brown, Marshall, Veseli, Campion (Pope, 46). Subs not used: Johnson, Birchall, Daniel, O’Sullivan.Port Vale line-up
: Johnstone, Clarke (c), Laird, Welsh (K Davies, 89), Wright, Huntington, Robinson (Humphrey, 70), Johnson, Garner, Beckford (Ebanks-Blake, 89), Gallagher. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Kilkenny, Woods, Little.PNE line-up
: 7,210 (2,485 away fans)Attendance
: Mr R ClarkReferee