Ten-man Chesterfield ran out 2-1 victors at Vale Park in a pulsating encounter, following goals from Eoin Doyle and Gary Roberts.Striker Doyle tapped home after Roberts had deliciously hit the post, though Mark Marshall levelled for Vale before the break. Roberts gave the Spireites the lead again within seconds of the restart and despite a late red card for Ian Evatt, the visitors held on for a mighty victory.
Both the Valiants and pacey Vale winger Marshall started the game on the front foot, showing a no-fear attitude towards the Spireites’ defence, as Marshall’s delivery early on was headed over Tommy Lee’s goal by forward Tom Pope.
Marshall continued his lively start to the game where he somehow managed to get on the end of a dangerous delivery, but his headed effort was fortunately straight at Lee.
The hosts’ early pressure sparked Chesterfield into life shortly after and it was Roberts who nearly grabbed the game’s opener following excellent wing play by makeshift wide man Doyle. The Irishman's direct approach on the left allowed him to find Roberts on the pull back, but the midfielder’s deflected effort crept just wide of the post.
However, Chesterfield did not have to wait much longer for their first goal of the afternoon, as Doyle was able prod home a rebound following a spectacular Roberts effort which had struck the post. A neat interchange between lone striker Armand Gnanduillet and Roberts created space for the winger, allowing him to step inside and rattle the woodwork before Doyle tapped home from six yards.
The Spireites appeared to be in control of a fierce tie between two good footballing sides, but Chesterfield’s lead was nearly cancelled out after Vale’s big forward Pope struck the post. An incisive breakaway led by Pope’s strike partner Ben Williamson created an opening for Pope to volley at goal from a tight angle, beating Lee but not the post, the ball ricocheting back off the woodwork.
That temporary scare from Vale was all they had offered in the 30 minutes that had been played, as an impressive Spireites performance was nearly rewarded with another goal following quick-fire efforts from both Jimmy Ryan and Sam Morsy which forced goalkeeper Sam Johnson into work.
Confidence was flowing freely throughout the Chesterfield team, and this was evident as Roberts attempted a speculative Beckham-esque long-range lob, but Johnson comfortably backpedalled to claim the ball.
Despite the Spireites’ dominance, Port Vale found themselves level just shy of the break, after the lively Marshall capitalised on a hopeful flick-on to drill past a helpless Lee. A long punt by Johnson was met by the unit of Pope as Marshall raced through on goal to smash the ball home and bring his side back into the game.
Following Marshall’s equaliser, it was a case of weathering the storm before the break for Chesterfield, as Vale nearly completed a 45-second turnaround when Pope’s header looked to have found Williamson at the back-post, but his out-stretched leg couldn’t produce the finishing touch.
The Spireites would have been entitled to feel slightly aggrieved going into the break level, but they were able to alter that within 17 seconds of the second-half, as Roberts put Chesterfield back in front with a tidy finish from a tight angle. Substitute Charlie Raglan’s long ball was met by Gnanduillet, who was then able to release Roberts as he twisted and turned Vale defender Richard Duffy before slotting the ball in off the post.
Similar to the first-half, Chesterfield appeared comfortable with their lead, but following all the dominance, Vale nearly equalised against the run of play for the second time, but after positive play by Pope, Lee produced a sensational diving save to deny Colin Daniel from inside the area.
The Spireites midfielders were proving to cause all sorts of problems for Vale’s defence, and Morsy nearly put that into practice after he let fire with a corking effort from all of 30 yards to goal, only for the ball to smash back off the crossbar and run away to safety.
Chesterfield were pressing for the goal that would seal the game, and yet again that very nearly came as a Gnanduillet effort was cleared off the line by defender Duffy. Doyle’s perseverance down the right allowed him to dig out a cross which picked out Gnanduillet, but his effort could not beat Duffy on the post.
The Spireites’ fluid frontline was tearing the Valiants’ defence to pieces at times, with Roberts proving to be the danger man for the visitors in next to every attack, and it was Roberts’ dummy which teed up Doyle, but his rasping left foot drive evaded the post by a matter of inches.
Captain Evatt was answering all the questions that were posed of him by the big Vale side, but after he had already been booked, the referee deemed his body check worthy of a second yellow card, leaving Chesterfield to battle out the last seven minutes with ten men.
Following Evatt’s dismissal, Vale inevitably threw everything at the raw Spireites defence, and it was Pope who had the opportunity to salvage a point late on, but his header was wide of the target, leaving Chesterfield to gain all three points.
Port Vale: Johnson (gk) - Veseli, Dickinson, Duffy, McGivern – Daniel (Moore), Lines (Brown), O’Connor, Marshall – Williamson (Slew), Pope.
Subs not used: Neal (gk), Birchall, Dodds, Jennings
Chesterfield: Lee (gk) – Darikwa, Evatt, Hird (Raglan), D.Jones – Morsy, Johnson (Broadhead), G.Roberts (Banks), Doyle, Ryan – Gnanduillet.
Subs not used: Chapman (gk), Onovwigun, Dawes, Ariyibi