A late sucker punch from League Two’s Player of the Year Tom Pope saw Port Vale force a draw. Marc Richards scored twice against his former employees to put the Spireites 2-1 ahead after Darren Purse had put Vale ahead early on.
Chesterfield welcomed second-placed Port Vale to a chilly Proact Stadium, hoping to continue the fine run of form that’s seen the Spireites win four of their last six games. Drew Talbot’s screamer against Burton Albion on Saturday was enough to disrupt the Brewers’ automatic promotion bid and gave Chesterfield a glimmer of hope of reaching the play-offs after Exeter’s slip up against Devon rivals Plymouth Argyle.
Port Vale kicked off the game and it didn’t take long for them to take the lead. Jennison Myrie-Williams’ corner was met by the head of Darren Purse who was unmarked in the area. He steered his header into the top corner past a helpless Tommy Lee to give the promotion-chasers a fifth minute lead.
The goal sparked Chesterfield into life and a strong penalty shout was turned down. Richards looked to have been pulled down from behind but the referee turned down the appeals. A minute later and the Spireites were level when Richards' free-kick from 25 yards out took a heavy deflection off the wall to deceive keeper Chris Neal.
Three minutes later and the game turned on its head. Some neat play in the midfield presented Jay O’Shea with an opportunity. Neal could only get a hand to his shot but Richards again was on hand to turn the ball past the keeper with the aid of a post. Out of respect for his former side, the striker didn’t celebrate.
The Spireites kept up the pressure with O’Shea and Talbot looking dangerous. After a lengthy stoppage for a head injury to Talbot, the winger returned to force a chance but his effort was blocked.
Vale made a tactical early change with Trinidad and Tobago international Chris Birchall replacing Robert Taylor. Minutes later, Doug Loft put a dangerous ball into the area but Cooper superbly steered the ball away for a corner. From the resulting kick, Loft stole a march on his defender but blazed his effort over.
An injury to Cooper resulted in Chesterfield’s first substitution of the game. He looked to go over on his ankle and was replaced by captain Sam Hird in a like-for-like swap.
Minutes later, Anthony Griffith was booked for another coming together with Drew Talbot. The midfielder backed into Talbot and referee Simon Hooper brandished the yellow card.
The second half started at fast pace. Vale looked for a way back into the game and should really have been awarded a penalty. Myrie-Williams ran at Conor Townsend and the left back looked to have brought the winger down but the referee waved away Vale’s protests.
Vale continued to pile on the pressure but Lee was rarely tested. To combat the pressure, manager Paul Cook brought on Armand Gnanduillet in place of O’Shea to move to a traditional 4-4-2 formation.
A quick break away from Loft caused Chesterfield’s first booking of the game. Neal Trotman took the midfielder down in the centre circle and was awarded a yellow card for his efforts.
Chesterfield were let off a minute later as substitute Chris Birchall’s effort narrowly went over. The Spireites defence was caught napping and Birchall’s effort scooped onto the top of the netting.
Vale again went agonisingly close again as a Loft effort from 25 yards was superbly tipped over the bar by Lee. From the resulting corner, there was a quick breakaway by Gnanduillet. However, the striker ran out of options in the final third.
Goalscorer Richards went up for an innocuous challenge and unfortunately for the striker looked to have suffered an injury.
A penalty appeal from the Valiants was turned down by the referee after a Myrie-Williams cross looked to have been blocked by the hand of Richard Brindley.
With only five minutes remaining, Vale levelled. A long ball into the box was met by the head of Pope and the ball squirmed through Lee’s grasp and the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Chesterfield looked to restore their lead but the instrumental Mark Randall’s effort was straight at Neal and nobody was on hand to follow it up.
With four minutes of additional time, Vale could have won it but for an unbelievable stop from Lee. Loft’s drive was fumbled by the goalkeeper but he recovered superbly to tip the rebound over the bar.
Quick thinking from Randall presented Jack Lester with an opportunity in the dying minutes but his effort was straight at the Vale goalkeeper.
Played in front of 6,669, it was a case of two points lost for the Spireites.