Port Vale 2-2 Northampton

Lee Collins

Port Vale all but secured automatic promotion to League One after a draw with play-off-bound Northampton.

A late own goal from ex-Vale man Lee Collins virtually assured Vale of League One football because of their vastly superior goal difference.

Earlier, a Clarke Carlisle strike put the Cobblers ahead after two minutes.

Liam Chilvers then headed in Tom Pope's delivery to bring Vale level, but Roy O'Donovan's effort put the visitors back in front before Collins' own goal.

The defender attempted to clear a seemingly harmless delivery from Vale substitute Chris Birchall, but instead sliced the ball over his own goalkeeper from 12 yards, sparking a pitch invasion on the final whistle at Vale Park, which was playing host to its largest crowd in 15 years.

The match had begun with Vale on the back foot and the visitors quickly took the initiative when Ben Harding's corner was forced in from close range by Carlisle.

Northampton pressed for a second, but shortly after they saw Luke Gutteridge hit the crossbar, League Two Player of the Year Pope crossed for Chilvers to power home a downward header and put the hosts level just before half-time.

A tense opening 20 minutes followed after the break before O'Donovan's rasping shot from the edge of the area flew into the top corner to give the Cobblers the lead again.

However, Vale are the top scorers in English League football and were not to be denied with Collins' misfortune all but ending their five-year exile from League One.

The draw left Vale three points clear of fourth-placed Cheltenham and only a highly unlikely 28-goal swing on the final day of the season could deprive them of automatic promotion.

The result also meant Northampton are guaranteed a place in the play-offs after Exeter were beaten by Cheltenham.

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Boothroyd hails play-off achievement

Northampton Town manager Aidy Boothroyd tells BBC Radio Northampton:

"Of course we would have liked to have gone up automatically, but that would have been an unbelievable achievement. We'll settle for a believable achievement for now.

"David Moyo was outstanding. We knew his pace was cause trouble and we hoped our midfield players could get on the ball.

"We should've won the game but we've experienced a big crowd and we're going to need to put that sort of performance in when it comes to the away game in the play-offs.

"Come the play-offs, we'll have everybody fit. That was the decision that I made, and I still thought we could get something here. But for a freak own-goal, we would've done."