Port Vale play-off hero Mal Benning is a pioneer for British South Asians in football, says Jobi McAnuff | football news

Port Vale play-off hero Mal Benning continues to fly the flag as a pioneer for British South Asians in football, according to Jobi McAnuff.

Benning’s Wembley debut was the stuff of dreams as he sealed the gateway to League One promotion with a 3-0 win over his old club Mansfield in front of Port Vale fans.

Punjabi footballer Danny Batth helped Sunderland regain promotion to the Sky Bet Championship at Wembley Stadium last weekend by delivering a flawless performance in their 2-0 win over Wycombe in the League One play-off final.

Ahead of Port Vale’s clash with Mansfield, Benning said Sky Sports of his pride at the opportunity to represent British South Asian footballers, particularly Indians and Sikhs, on the pitch of the home of English football, adding he hopes he can help inspire the next generation of talent, from within the community to emerge.

McAnuff, whose appointment as independent non-executive director of the Football Association was confirmed by the FA Council this week, said Sky Sports: “We talk a lot about representation, and certainly it’s a part of society that we don’t see represented nearly enough in the game.

“He was certainly a pioneer and someone who has been flying the flag for many, many years. It’s really great to see how he gets his day and against his former club – it always seems like that – he emerges with the goal.

“He was fantastic, both full-backs were key to the game but there’s a big, big credit to him. He had to be ready. He hasn’t played much lately and he came back to the team and he took his opportunity – it’s a big, big credit to Mal Benning.”

Benning: Massive move for South Asians in The Game

Port Vale defender Mal Benning on Sky Sports Football:

“The main thing is that we won. I’m happy to score the third goal and finish the game. I saw it go into the net and I just thought, ‘I scored at Wembley’.”

“I came Sky sports news in conversation earlier this week [South] Asians in football and such [today] was a huge step. I don’t care that it’s me, it could have been anyone, but it was a huge step for both the Sikh community and South Asians in football.”

How Port Vale defeated Mansfield

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Highlights of the second division play-off final between Mansfield and Port Vale at Wembley Stadium.

There are so many sliding door moments in these endgames, and this one came so early for Mansfield. After just nine minutes, Jamie Murphy had a great opportunity to put his side ahead after James Gibbons misinterpreted a cross – but he was denied by Aidan Stone from close range.

That gave Harratt the chance to give Vale the lead. Just a minute after hitting the post with a raspy shot from 20 yards, he found the goal in the 20th minute when he clipped a deflected cross from Mal Benning to plant a header into the bottom corner.

It was 2-0 four minutes later when David Worrall’s cross from the right was headed to the crossbar by Ben Garrity before the ball kindly headed in for former Manchester United striker Wilson.

The situation soon got worse for Mansfield. Hawkins, who had been booked just minutes earlier, received a second yellow for a hasty lookout on Wilson – leaving his 10-man side behind.

Statistics after the game

  • For the fourth time in four attempts, Mansfield missed promotion beyond the playoffs (1995, 2004, 2019 and 2022). This was the second time they had reached the final and not won, having previously lost to Huddersfield on penalties in 2004.
  • Port Vale have now won promotion in two of their three play-off appearances, but this was their first triumph since the 1988/89 season in the third division. They are the first team since 2014/15 (Southend) to achieve promotion via the Second Division play-offs after finishing fifth.
  • Mansfield failed to win all three games against Port Vale in 2021-22 (D1 N2), with the Valiants being one of only three teams to beat Mansfield on multiple occasions that season (also Harrogate and Sutton).

Mansfield could have gotten back into the game just before half-time when an Aidan Stone free-kick spilled and landed in Rhys Oates’ path, but his shot was intercepted off the line by Connor Hall to maintain Vale’s advantage.

There would be no comeback for the Stags as Benning sealed the game late for Vale against his old side, firing brilliantly home from Worrall’s cross.

British South Asians in Football

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