Match analysis: Port Vale 0 Chesterfield 2
FOOTBALL fans can be a fickle bunch.
Supporters of every club are passionate about their team, but the boo boys giving their own players both barrels during and after this game were surely wide of the mark.
• GALLERY: Match Action: Port Vale 0 Chesterfield 2
Vale will be the first to admit their performance against Chesterfield fell a long way below usual standards.
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But the minority who took to jeering their own side are perhaps in need of a reality check.
This was only Vale's fourth league defeat of a season which has been memorable until now.
And one glance at the table will provide the perfect response to those so quick with the put-downs.
Yes this was one of those games the players will need to put quickly behind them and, yes, it's been a bad week.
But the section of fans who allowed their frustration to boil over must surely keep things in context.
Micky Adams's men remain on the coat tails of leaders Gillingham and have a chance this week, when they play the team behind them, Cheltenham, to press home their status as promotion candidates.
Vale never got out of first gear against a Chesterfield team who showed why they've found such a rich vein of form, and Adams was left feeling as flat as his side's performance.
"Individually we've not got it right and collectively we didn't get the result we wanted, so I'm disappointed," he said.
"Three defeats in a week is hard to take.
"Credit to Chesterfield, but with them and Bradford in the week, we've seen teams who possibly wanted it a little bit more than we did and I don't understand that at all."
Adams admitted his team hadn't created enough.
"We had opportunities in the first half to get the ball in the box, but took that extra touch or failed to deliver," he added. "We hit the first man too many times, so the two front were starved of any real service.
"I can understand that. When the pitch is like it is, cutting up and with big divots, you do take that extra touch just to make sure you deliver the perfect ball in.
"Earlier on in the season, they delivered it first time and never even thought about it. Now they are.
"But Chesterfield were one of the favourites for promotion, so we haven't been beaten by a mug team. We've been beaten by a team on a decent run of form. That can happen."
Tom Pope went closest for the home side, but his shot from the edge of the area after only five minutes, pushed around the post by goalkeeper Tommy Lee, proved to be a rare sight of the visitors' goal.
The 21-goal frontman did go close with a thumping header midway through the second half, but with wingers Jennison Myrie-Williams and Ashley Vincent looking off the pace, that was pretty much the sum total of Vale's serious attempts on goal.
Chesterfield, on the other hand, were keen to get forward, with former Arsenal midfielder Mark Randall pulling the strings.
The obvious danger before the game was Marc Richards on his first return to the club since leaving in the summer.
And although the striker failed to find the scoresheet, he did play an important part in goals either side of half-time for former Vale loanee Jay O'Shea and Tendayi Darikwa.
The visitors had already unleashed several efforts which troubled goalkeeper Chris Neal before pressing home their advantage.
Randall had taken aim with a couple of long-range strikes and O'Shea, making his debut having joined on loan from MK Dons, was an obvious threat.
So it was no real surprise to see the visitors turn their dominance into something more tangible after 37 minutes.
A long ball forward from midfield found Richards lurking with intent inside the penalty area and his neat control under pressure gave O'Shea the chance to slide a shot from 14 yards into the net.
Pope and fellow Vale striker Calvin Andrew, handed his first start up front, were rarely given a sniff as Chesterfield dominated in midfield – and there was more of the same after the break.
Richards drifted beyond Clayton McDonald not long after the restart and was only prevented from having a clear run at goal by Doug Loft, who had raced over from left-back.
Randall looked determined to find the net himself, with a string of shots from distance capped by an optimistic effort from the halfway line which was caught on the stretch by a retreating Neal.
He then danced through several challenges only for Darikwa to fire over the bar.
The Valiants mustered little in reply and were barely seen as an attacking force before falling 2-0 behind after 64 minutes.
Richards found space down the left and his deflected cross landed on a plate for Darikwa, who nodded home from close range at the far post.
Home fans might well have expected a response, but though Adams tried various combinations in a bid to spark his team into life, it just didn't happen.
"It was too easy for them," said Adams. "Marc Richards, in particular, had it too easy.
"We know what a good player he can be, but it wasn't until the 70th minute that he got put on his backside.
"I'm disappointed because we never got to grips with them at all."