Ten-man Port Vale recorded their first win of 2018 in spectacular fashion on Good Friday as they rallied to beat Chesterfield on home soil. Danny Pugh had given his side the lead before being dismissed, but an 82nd-minute strike from Ben Whitfield cancelled out Louis Reeds’ leveller to secure a vital victory.
In front of a noisy home crowd, it was Vale who started the brighter of the two teams and with six minutes played the first opportunity of the afternoon was created. David Worrall did well down the right before crossing into the returning Tom Pope, but he was unable to direct his header on target.
The Valiants continued to pile on the pressure during the early exchanges and some great play between Luke Hannant and Worrall allowed the latter to send in a cross once more on nine minutes. Pope attempted to meet it at the far post, but Drew Talbot did well to clear the danger.
Four minutes later, a Michael Tonge delivery bounced around the box before the visitors eventually managed to clear. Up the other end with 16 minutes on the clock, it was Chesterfield who almost took the lead against the run of play through Zavon Hines, but Ryan Boot reacted well to tip his close-range effort onto the post.
Hannant then fashioned a chance for Vale after 25 minutes as he skipped past two defenders before taking aim from just outside the area. Aaron Ramsdale got down well to make a smart save, however. The midfielder was then presented another opening nine minutes later, but he dragged a low strike wide from 18 yards.
Vale’s best chance of the half then went begging with 36 minutes played as Pope nodded a Worrall cross down into a dangerous area, but Tyrone Barnett could only hit the crossbar from close range. The deadlock was broken on the stroke of half-time as Pugh poked a Worrall cross home – he was then sent off just two minutes later for a strong challenge on Jacob Brown.
Following the restart, Chesterfield looked to utilise their one-man advantage by keeping possession and a neat move lead to Andy Kellett winning a free-kick on 56 minutes. Reed then stepped up to curl his effort over the wall and into the top corner beyond the despairing figure of Boot.
After conceding, Vale looked to pull back ahead, and they almost managed it with 59 minutes played as Worrall sent a low cross towards Pope. The striker then wrestled with Sid Nelson at the back post, with the defender inadvertently slicing a clearance behind for a corner.
The Valiants carried on driving forward and a scintillating run from Cristian Montano saw him take on three Chesterfield players before pulling a ball back across the face. As Pope and Hannant looked to get on the end of it with sliding challenges, Reed was on hand to cut out the danger for the visitors.
Up the other end with just a quarter-of-an-hour left to play, Chesterfield went a crossbar’s width away from taking the lead. Bradley Barry swung in a tempting cross and Kristian Dennis ran across his marker to direct a header towards goal, only for it to canon off the woodwork. Hines then reacted quickest to the rebound, but his follow-up was comfortable for Boot.
With tempers boiling over and some feisty challenges going in, both teams battled to gain a foothold and the game took a turn in Vale’s favour after 82 minutes. Whitfield cut inside past a defender before slotting a finish into the far corner beyond the reaches of Ramsdale – cue euphoric scenes around Vale Park as Neil Aspin’s men secured a crucial set of three points.
Port Vale: Boot, Raglan, Smith, Howkins, Montano, Worrall (Harness 89), Pugh, Tonge (Kay 54), Hannant, Barnett (Whitfield 57), Pope ©.
Unused Substitutes: Hornby, Davis, Gibbons, Turner.
Chesterfield: Ramsdale, Dennis, Talbot, Kellett (Dodds 81), Reed, Barry, Weir ©, Whitmore, Nelson, Hines (Kay 81), Brown (O’ Grady 86).
Unused Substitutes: Anyon, Smith, Maguire, McCourt.