Chesterfield were forced into one change for the team to face Port Vale at the B2Net Stadium this afternoon, with Dwayne Mattis coming into the side for the injured Scott Griffiths, who reported with a hamstring niggle and was not risked. The usual voluntary "home" player swap was made, too, with the evergreen Jack Lester coming back in for Kieran Djilali. Before the kick-off, Jack was presented with a silver salver by the club to mark his five-hundredth Football League appearance.
The Spireites made much the brighter start and forced three corners in the opening five minutes. The pressure was only relieved when Holden headed the third wide at the far post, clearly feeling that he might have done better.
Craig Davies, who first came to our attention in the Vale side that won 5-0 at the Rec last season, headed Allott's cross against the foot of Tomlinson's right-hand post on 10; When Whitaker crossed from the other side two minutes later, Davies scissor-kicked a shot against the other post. On both occasions the goalkeeper was well beaten.
Loft cut in and shot two yards wide on the quarter-hour mark but Davies came to the fore again on 17, when his shot from Lester's pass clipped McCombe on its way out for Chesterfield's fourth corner.
Faced with mounting pressure, Vale pulled an extra man (and sometimes two) into the area just in front of the hard-pressed central defenders with around 25 minutes gone, and the game became more attritional. Vale were able to stifle the service to Chesterfield's front two, but at a price that saw Tommy Lee rarely called into action in The Spireites' goal.
Davies headed a Whitaker free kick over on 28 and Vale won their first corner, but nothing came of it. As the home side became a little frustrated that their dominance had been unrewarded, Morgan reacted to a poor Roberts tackle.
Smalley became bogged down with the ball in midfield on 42 and Lester took over, leap-frogging Smalley to take the ball on and find Davies, who returned to Lester. His shot was blocked by Taylor.
Holden headed a Taylor cross out for Vale's second corner on the stroke of halftime, but the opportunity was again well-defended, and both sides went in with their defences intact.
HT 0-0. Attendance: 8,606 (1,551 from Burslem.)
Just as the home fans were wondering how their side might puncture the heavily-manned Vale defence, they went and did it. Width was the key; with just three second-half minutes on the clock the ball was worked out to Morgan, on the left, and he put over a hugely inviting cross for JACK LESTER to get up above Collins and head home at the back post.
Mark Allot was having an enjoyably busy game in midfield and stormed out of a defensive wall on 53 to block a free kick for a Vale corner, which Lee gathered with reassurance. Chesterfield looked to extend their lead and Davies forced Tomlinson into a decent save from a narrow angle on 57.
Smalley got away down the Spireites' right from a Lester pass and crossed to Whitaker, but he couldn't control well enough for his early shot to really trouble the keeper.
Vale won a couple of corners but were again unable to force a favourable conclusion, with Marc Richards, last season's bogeyman, being well-marshalled by Dean Holden and Dwayne Mattis.
On 69, Lester played a lovely ball from just inside the Vale half through the visitors' defence to Whitaker but Yates came in with a fine tackle to deny him from sixteen yards out. Two minutes later, though, Chesterfield doubled their advantage; Talbot came bombing up the right and his presence was enough to stretch the Vale defence, making room for DEANE SMALLEY to cut in and take the ball round the goalkeeper before slotting home from around twelve yards.
Port Vale replaced Loft with Haldane before the resumption, and the game had not been going much longer before the referee had to be replaced by the fourth official after going down with a calf injury.
Vale tried to get something from the game but were always too wary of Davies and Lester to be happy about committing the necessary men forward. Chesterfield looked for more, but without over-committing themselves, and neither goal was seriously threatened thereafter. A steady stream of substitutions saw J Richards come on for the busy but one-dimensional Pope after 76; Breckin replaced the injured Mattis three minutes after that. Jack Lester received another standing ovation on 85, when replaced by Scott Boden.
In a late flurry both sides won corners as the game entered stoppage time. Niven replaced Smalley in the second minute of the five added on and the game came to a conclusion after Whitaker shot wide from a corner.