Boss John Askey praised hat-trick hero Tom Pope’s attitude as he almost single-handedly fired Port Vale to a 3-1 FA Cup second-round victory at Cheltenham.
Vale were up against it throughout the opening half and they trailed to Reuben Reid’s third-minute penalty.
But Pope’s opener after an hour sparked the turnaround and he completed his treble in just eight minutes as Askey’s side stormed into Monday evening’s third-round draw.
“We couldn’t have made a much worse start,” Askey said. “We were all over the place at times but when we sorted it out, we always looked like we had a goal in us.
“It’s really pleasing, obviously, and massive for the football club as well to be in the hat on Monday, which is what we all wanted.
“One of the big boys would be great but if not, we are looking for one of the lower league clubs at home. But mainly it’s about enjoying this result.”
Pope has often been forced to play second fiddle to Richie Bennett this season, but he seized his chance with both hands.
“Richie hadn’t been scoring and Tom is champing at the bit and he’s taken his chance,” Askey said.
“We know if he gets half a chance he’ll more than likely put it in the net.
“I am really pleased for him as he’s had a bit of a tough time recently but he gives it 100 per cent every time he trains and he’s been good around the place, encouraging other players.
“He’s very important to us.”
Cheltenham dominated the first half, with Reid converting from the penalty spot in the third minute after Sean Long was tripped by Cristian Montano.
Reid and Alex Addai wasted chances to make it 2-0 and were made to pay as Pope headed Rhys Browne’s cross past Scott Flinders.
Two minutes later the big striker headed home again from James Gibbons’ centre, and he made it three goals in eight minutes when he thumped in after Cheltenham failed to deal with a corner.
Cheltenham manager Michael Duff was left to rue his side’s profligacy in front of goal in the first half.
“The frustrating thing is that we can’t seem to put two halves together,” he said.
“We dominated the first half and definitely should have been more than 1-0 up. That’s what happens and when you are on top you need to score.
“They’ve had 10 minutes and they’ve scored three goals in that spell.
“We weren’t complacent, but maybe we thought another chance would come and another – but they are a decent team, Port Vale.
“You know what you are going to get with Popey and the ball is going to come into the box and we need to do better than that.”