Port Vale: Debut boy Sam Johnson the hero in penalty shoot-out at Walsall
ROOKIE goalkeeper Sam Johnson admitted he'd never been so nervous in his life seconds before becoming an instant hero to Port Vale fans.
The 19-year-old enjoyed a debut that dreams are made of when he scored the winner in a dramatic shoot-out against Walsall last night.
The young stopper played a key role as Vale produced a dazzling performance in a 2-2 draw, then made three vital saves as the match ended with penalties.
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And if that wasn't enough, Johnson then held his nerve to drive home the spot-kick which sent the Valiants through to the area quarter-finals of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and sealed a club record sixth away win in a row.
And moments after the final whistle, the shy young stopper couldn't quite believe what had just happened.
"I'm just ecstatic and delighted," he said. "We were having a laugh before the game saying I was going to score the winning penalty, but I never dreamed it would happen.
"I've never actually taken one before, so to score one on my debut, and for it to be the winner, is just incredible.
"I've never, ever felt so nervous before I stepped up to take it. I just picked my corner and hoped their keeper would go the other way. Luckily he did."
Walsall looked set to reach the next round when goals from Florent Cuvelier, from the penalty spot, and Will Grigg gave the League One outfit a 2-0 lead they barely deserved.
But plucky Vale deservedly bounced back through Ryan Burge, then Tom Pope, who grabbed his 12th goal in just 14 games this season.
Boss Micky Adams was delighted, both with victory and with how young Johnson stepped up to the plate.
"It was a great game from start to finish with lots of chances for both sides and I think we deserved to have a bit of luck," he said.
"I'm delighted we've won a shoot-out at last, as I lost both my previous ones with Vale.
"We had three opportunities to win it during the penalties and fluffed all of them until Sam took his.
"I'm chuffed for him," added Adams. "We have every confidence in him as a keeper and he's a decent prospect.
"I wouldn't say he's a laid-back character, but he can look horizontal at times. But he's a nice lad and if my daughter brought him home I'd be delighted."
VALE are refusing to comment on speculation linking coach Rob Page with the vacant manager's job at AFC Wimbledon.
The 38-year-old has emerged as the bookies' favourite for the role following the departure of Terry Brown last month and one London newspaper even reported he would be revealed as the new Dons boss today.
Page has been a popular addition to the staff at Vale Park, having arrived as a youth coach in July, 2011. He was quickly promoted to first-team duties when Geoff Horsfield left in the summer.
ADAMS has been officially nominated for the League Two manager of the month award for September.
The Valiants claimed 13 points from a possible 18 to stay within touching distance of the League Two summit.
He faces competition from John Coleman (Rochdale) and Paul Sturrock (Southend).
Hot-shot Tom Pope has, meanwhile, been nominated for the player prize after scoring seven goals during the period.
Others in the frame are Southend striker Britt Assombalonga and Rochdale midfielder Andrew Tutte.
The winners will be announced on Friday.