Port Vale v Chesterfield
At Vale Park
Attendance: 4,402 including 356 visiting supporters
Sam Kelly’s first goal for the Vale, along with a fourth goal in three games from Ajay Leitch-Smith and a further strike from Louis Dodds were enough to continue Vale recent run, extending it to five goals without defeat.
Vale’s victory was all the more impressive, given their Cup exploits two days previously, this time against a Chesterfield side who had had a full week to prepare for the game.
Understandably there were a few tired and weary legs out there late on in the game, nevertheless Vale were good value for the three points, which saw them close the gap on the play-off places.
Vale announced just the one change to the starting eleven as they faced Chesterfield at Vale Park for their second match in under forty-eight hours, following the FA Cup success at Maidenhead on Thursday evening.
Michael O’Connor picked up a slight injury towards the end of the game at York Road and so it was decided not to risk him, especially with another match lined up on Tuesday night.
Sam Kelly came in from the cold, out into the cold, given the weather. He took up his position on the left, with Sam Foley moving back inside to partner Anthony Grant in the centre of the Vale midfield.
A bright start from the visitors almost caught Vale napping with the defence looking a little disorganised at the back, struggling to clear their lines.
Gardner then shot over the Vale bar at the far post when he latched on to a cross from the right to catch the ball on the volley.
GOAL: It was Vale who struck first, however, when SAM KELLY cut inside from the right to fire a low drive past Tommy Lee from the edge of the box.
GOAL: Three minutes later the visitors were level, when LEE NOVAK found himself unmarked at the back post before unleashing a shot past Jak Alnwick.
GOAL: It took a further two minutes for Vale to regain their lead and Kelly again had a hand in things, playing a short pass to AJAY LEITCH-SMITH, who obliged, netting his fourth goal in three games.
The two sides seemed to be coping with the conditions quite well, each of them managing to play a passing game on a snow-covered pitch.
Former Vale defender Dan Jones was booed by the home crowd every time he touched the ball, the fans remembering the training ground incident a couple of years ago for which he effectively got the sack.
Vale almost increased their lead on 25 minutes when Louis Dodds met a right wing cross from Adam Yates to sent a powerful header towards the back post, but Lee got down to make the save.
Both sides had spells where they looked like they might be about to take the game by the sruff of the neck, but neither of them managed to do so.
Richard Wood had the ball in the vale net just before half time when put through by former Vale loanee Chris Herd, but he was a yard or two off side and the ‘goal’ didn’t count.
Chesterfield began the second half on the front foot but again, it Vale the home side who struck first, extending their lead three minutes after the interval.
GOAL: Anthony Grant picked up the ball just over the halfway line and drove through the middle unchallenged, before playing the ball to LOUIS DODDS on his left, who found the net from 15 yards via the inside of the upright.
Vale were playing some good stuff at times and if Thursday’s FA Cup replay had taken anything out of the players it certainly wasn’t showing.
They were playing some neat, passing football, and defending well whenever called upon as the visitors looked to find a way back into the game.
It was a case of seeing whether tiredness began to creep in a little as the game went on, which would have been more than understandable.
The Spireites went close to pulling a goal back midway through the second half when Jones was upended about twenty yards out to win his side a free kick.
The kick was taken by Novak and it skimmed the head of Anthony Grant, forcing Alnwick in the Vale goal to push the ball over his crossbar in spectacular fashion.
A timely tackle on Ebanks-Blake by Ryan McGivern on the edge of the six yard box again kept the visitors at bay as Dean Saunders’ side continued to push for a goal which would get them back into the game.
They went close again in the 78th minute when an angled drive from substitute Oliver Banks skimmed off the top of Jak Alnwick’s crossbar.
Alnwick was substituted just two minutes later, with Chris Neal coming off the bench for his first appearance of the season.
Ebanks-Blake squandered a golden opportunity to test Vale’s resolve with a late goal for the visitors when, unmarked, he put a point blank header across the face of the goal.
A minute later, with the fourth official holding up the board to indicate three minutes of added time, Rai Simons curled a 20 yard shot past Chris Neal to put some respectability back into the scoreline and to give a glimmer of hope for the visitors.
PORT VALE: Jak Alnwick, Adam Yates, Ryan McGivern, Richard Duffy, Byron Moore, Anthony Grant, Sam Foley, Sam Kelly, Louis Dodds, Ajay Leitch-Smith. SUBS: Chris Neal, Ben Purkiss, Remie Streete, Chris Birchall, Uche Ikpeazu, Colin Daniel, JJ Hooper
CHESTERFIELD: Tommy Le, Adrian Hird, Dan Jones, Ian Evvatt, Richard Wood, Sam Morsy, Chris Herd, James O’Shea, Dan Gardner, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Lee Novak. SUBS: Aaron Chapman, Liam O’Neil, Andrew Talbot, Omogbolahan Ariyibi, Rai Simons, Charlie Raglan, Oliver Banks