AN INCREDIBLE afternoon at Princess Royal Park saw Vale progress to the second round stages of the Breedon League Cup with a 5-4 extra-time win over a lacklustre Wick Academy side, who had the the tie won at one stage, but failed to see it out.
Two quick second-half goals from the visitors should have been enough to see them through against a 10-man Vale, who lost their keeper early on. However, credit must be given to the young home side, who never gave up and deservedly squared the tie with just four minutes remaining of normal time when Chris Blackhall netted with a super volley.
A disappointing crowd welcomed the two sides as they faced off for the second time this year with Vale very much under strength, missing regular keeper James Blanchard through work and Kris Duncan through suspension to add to the unavailable Ross McKenzie, Gordon Carstairs and Michele Lombardi.
The Banffers got off to the perfect start when they opened the scoring within five minutes. Kyle Rae played in Mike McKenzie, who sold his marker a brilliant dummy before chipping the ball over Michael Gray with the outside of his boot.
Wick replied within two minutes when Gary Weir waltzed through the home defence before squaring to Dave Allan, who easily found the net with Rae's desperate attempt to clear off the line in vain.
Vale went back in front when McKenzie's corner from the left found Graeme Rodger, who blasted the ball into the top corner with a fierce drive from the edge of the box.
The cup tie was turned on its head within 60 seconds when Vale's hesitant defence allowed Allan in behind, exposing young keeper Blair Tait, who unfortunately tripped the Wick striker and was immediately shown a straight red.
The incident may have been outside the box but referee Doug Ross awarded a penalty and Sam Mackay easily stroked it home past stand-in keeper Rae to square the tie once more.
An excellent piece of skill from McKenzie saw the skipper smack the corner of the crossbar and post with the outside of his boot with Michael Gray firmly rooted to the spot.
Steve Cunningham pulled an 18-yarder narrowly wide while, at the other end, Scott Henry nearly connected with a near-post ball in from the corner flag.
A decent start to the second half from the home side saw Watt come within inches of putting the reds ahead when he connected with a loose ball in the box only to be denied by a last-ditch block from Alan Farquhar.
In Wick's first attack of the second period, they snatched the lead when Weir broke clear and his effort saw Rae kick it into his own net.
Worse was to follow for the stand-in keeper two minutes later when his poor goal kick went straight to Weir who, in turn, set up Allan to score.
That should have sealed the match for Wick, however six minutes later some trickery on the left from Watt saw the winger get to the bye-line before firing a ball across the face of goal to find the inrushing Blackhall, who guided the ball home to give the Valley faithful a little hope with 20 minutes left.
When a Blackhall header hit the bar it looked all over, but, after 83 minutes, Wick were reduced to 10 men too when Ross Allan lashed out at Blackhall and was booked for the second time in the match, collecting an automatic red. With four minutes remaining, Blackhall netted off a lovely lay-off from Watt.
Rodger then had a deflected effort crash off the woodwork for the third time for the hard-working Banffers, who also had a decent shout for a penalty deep inside injury time when Blackhall was checked in the box.
The tired Vale players tried their best to keep up the tempo of the tie in extra time and substitute Leigh Henderson was inches from connecting with sponsors' man-the-match McKenzie's set-piece before Watt found the hands of Gray as he looked to find the net from the edge of the danger area.
Allan flashed a fierce effort over the top for the Academy but, as the tie progressed, it was only the team in red who looked like winning.
Rodger saw a fierce volley charged down in the Wick 18-yard box before Watt ran on to McKenzie's pass and stroked the ball beyond Gray
A late double stop from Kyle Rae was richly appreciated by the home support.
Deveronvale: Tait, Rae, Barclay, Henry, Fraser, Blackhall, Rennie (Henderson 80), Cowie (Meldrum 86), McKenzie (cpt), Rodger, Watt. Subs not used: Adams.