Talking Tactics: League One spot on the line as Mansfield face Valiants

Will Evans
LiveScore
Ben Garrity is Port Vale's joint top scorer and could pose a real threat to Mansfield's promotion hopes
Ben Garrity is Port Vale's joint top scorer and could pose a real threat to Mansfield's promotion hopes

The curtain comes down on League Two's dramatic promotion battle at Wembley with agony or ecstasy awaiting play-off finalists Mansfield and Port Vale. 

Both clubs are bidding to escape the Football League's basement division — but only one will have the chance to make their mark on England's third tier next season. 

Ahead of today's winner-takes-all encounter, we assess where the clash will be won and lost.

Promotion experience

Stags boss Nigel Clough knows a thing or two about winning promotion. 

The 56-year-old coach took former club Burton into the National League and was on the brink of reaching League Two when he left to manage Derby. 

His second spell with the Brewers was no less successful, finishing second in League One in 2015-16. 

But opposite number Darrell Clarke also achieved a double promotion with his old club Bristol Rovers — and one of those was via the play-offs. 

That experience could hand the Valiants an edge this afternoon.

Multiple threats

Rhys Oates is Mansfield's top scorer in League Two this season
Rhys Oates is Mansfield's top scorer in League Two this season

No player in Mansfield's ranks had hit double figures this season ahead of the play-offs — but only four teams scored more times than Clough's men across the campaign. 

The Stags have shared the goals around with Rhys Oates, Jordan Bowery, Stephen McLaughlin and Oliver Hawkins all netting at least seven. 

Port Vale have a similarly diverse range of goal threats after matching Mansfield's tally of 67 during the regular season. 

Joint 12-goal top scorers Ben Garrity and Jamie Proctor will warrant particular attention, if the latter can recover from injury in time to feature, as will James Wilson after his two strikes in the semi-finals. 

With so many potent attackers on the pitch, a high-scoring encounter could be on the cards.

Jamie Proctor and Ben Garrity are Port Vale's joint top scorers with 12 goals each
Jamie Proctor and Ben Garrity are Port Vale's joint top scorers with 12 goals each

Rearguard resilience

Though Mansfield conceded six goals more than Port Vale this term, Clough was full of praise for their defensive effort in the second leg of their play-off semi against Northampton last Wednesday.

Speaking after the game, he said: "[It was] hard work but I thought it was an incredible effort by all the players tonight and over the two legs. 

"Tonight, I thought we were very good at denying the opposition a lot of opportunities. 

"It was one of our best defensive performances this season to keep the clean sheet, certainly, but it started at the front. 

There is not much to separate seventh-placed Mansfield and fifth-placed Port Vale
There is not much to separate seventh-placed Mansfield and fifth-placed Port Vale

"I thought Quinny [Stephen Quinn] and Rhys Oates started that off. 

"Then Jordan Bowery and Lucas Akins doing their defensive duties were outstanding tonight in wide areas." 

Stags supporters will be hoping their team's newfound resilience can make the difference at the national stadium. 

Calm heads

Port Vale's dramatic semi-final victory over Swindon saw manager Clarke sent to the stands after an extra-time altercation with Robins skipper Dion Conroy. 

But the 44-year-old coach — who only recently returned from bereavement leave following the death of a close family member — apologised after the match. 

He said: "I want to apologise. I shouldn't have done what I did on the touchline. 

"I apologise to Swindon and Dion. They're a good club, he's a good player. 

"I don't know what came over me. I've had an emotional time. It's the first time I've been sent off." 

Calmer heads will be needed in the dugout when the final gets under way.

Shootout know-how

Mansfield will be relieved they did not need penalties to get past Northampton — but could Port Vale's spot-kick triumph against Swindon hold them in good stead at Wembley? 

After all, they will have recent experience of how to deal with such a high-pressure scenario if the teams cannot be separated after 120 minutes. 

Despite missing two of their first three efforts from 12 yards, the Valiants emerged as 6-5 winners in their semi-final and will be full of confidence if penalties are needed to decide promotion to League One. 

Tags

League TwoMansfieldPort Vale
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