However, goals from Alan Brown and Lee McGeachy could do little to prevent Hugh Hamill’s side’s faltering end to the season continuing into a fourth week.

Hamill said: “It was a poor defeat but I can’t say the performance was that bad.

“It is hard to take as we have now lost four on the bounce and it is difficult to explain what has went wrong.

“When the chips are down we have struggled, especially against the teams around us that we need to be beating.

“There is quality within this side and we really should be looking to get promoted but it just wasn’t to be this season.

“But, we will freshen up in the summer and bring a few boys through from the under-21s and a couple of local guys.

“The quality is there but we will need to regroup in the summer and hopefully come back stronger next season, I think we are as good as any side in the league.” Vale found themselves one up at Fullarton Park at half time after some good work from Mark Pawsey allowed McGeachy to strike past the keeper from outside the box.

But, the hosts looked a different side in the second period and equalised after 54 minutes through Hepburn.

In a frantic four minute spell the lead swung with Alan Brown putting Vale ahead once again with a well placed free kick. before Franchetti equalised less than a minute later to restore parity between the sides.

Hamill’s side eventually fell to defeat when McManus wrapped up the tie from the spot 15 minutes from time, meaning the Vale now sit fifth in the league with only one game left to play.

Vale of Leven: Smith, Nugent, Lacy, Wilson, Monaghan, Pawsey, Crowhurst, McGeachy, Brown, Martin (Arthur), McNaught.

Unused subs: McKenzie, Ward.