Port Vale 0 Chesterfield 1
TEN-MAN Port Vale slumped to their seventh home defeat as an Aaron Downes header secured victory for Chesterfield….dealing another blow to their fading play-off hopes.
Vale competed well in the first-half, but striker Marc Richards’s dismissal with half-time approaching proved to be pivotal moment, writes Steve Shaw from Vale Park.
Glover’s men battled hard throughout the 90 minutes but were unable to find the killer touch, despite hitting the bar during the first half.
Vale boss Dean Glover made five changes from the starting line-up that was comfortably swept aside 3-0 by Bury last weekend, changing from a 4-4-2 formation to a fluid 4-3-3.
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Striker Steve Thompson lined up to make his long-awaited debut following his summer move from Middlesbrough.
The 19-year-old has only made two substitute appearances for the Valiants after recovering from a serious hamstring injury. It was also Thompson’s senior professional debut.
Attacker Louis Dodds, who started at Gigg Lane last week, dropped to the bench.
Keeper Joe Anyon failed to recover from an ankle injury, while midfielder Simon Richman was sidelined with the same complaint. In came 18-year-old keeper Chris Martin, making only his fifth start for the club. Scott Brown returned to first-team duties after missing last week with a calf strain, while fellow loan midfielder Neil MacKenzie dropped out of the squad completely. MacKenzie’s absence gave Irish central midfielder Dave Howland another chance to impress.
Right-back Sam Stockley was unable to cling on to his place making way for Anthony Griffith. Striker Kyle Perry was drafted into the squad, hoping to get into the action for the first time since the 1-0 away defeat at Gillingham in late September.
Thompson was partnered by fellow striker Richards up front with Danny Glover advancing from his right-flank position to support the strikers. Howland, Davidson and Brown made up the midfield three.
Former Valiant Paul Harsley made a rare start for Chesterfield in central midfield.
In grey and miserable conditions Chesterfield almost took the lead in the opening seconds when 15-goal striker Jamie Ward burst through on goal in the left channel latching on to a long ball. But the division’s top-scorer, under pressure from Griffith, hit a tame 20-yard chip into the arms of Martin.
Vale carved out their first chance on five minutes. Left-back Damien McCrory hit a long ball, which Richards did well to flick on into the path of Thompson. The striker sped onto the ball, dragging his long-ranger wide of the left-hand post from 20 yards.
Thompson was in the action again two minutes later, this time feeding Howland on the left from where the midfielder delivered into the danger area.
Full-back Phil Picken half-cleared into the path of Davidson, who took a touch, and failed to threaten the visitors’ goal with a 16-yard grass-cutter.
The inexperienced Martin showed his shot-stopping prowess in the ninth minute turning around midfielder Gregor Robertson’s well-hit strike from the edge of the box.
Chesterfield were guilty at tiomes of simply launching long balls to try to unleash the pace of Ward. Although they created a greater threat when feeding the ball into the feet of Lester.
In the 19th minute it was the 33-year-old Lester who collected a long ball though, and when Vale’s midfield and defence backed off, he strode forward and hit a fierce low 20-yard drive. However, a sprawling Martin did well to again tip the ball around the left-hand post.
Vale came close to breaking the deadlock on 21minutes. This time loan defender Gareth Owen returned a Chesterfield clearance with his own measured long pass into the path of Richards in the left channel. The Valiants’ top scorer ran onto the ball, and using the outside of his boot, crashed his angled 12-yard shot onto the bar with the ball flying away to safety.
Ward blazed over soon after from the edge of the box, before Robertson’s free-kick hit Lester’s back in Vale’s box. The ball bounced invitingly for Jamie Lowry who couldn’t get any power behind his shot with Martin easily catching the resulting effort.
On 35 minutes, the hosts won a free-kick on the right wing. Brown swung the ball to the far post where Richards’s downward header forced Chesterfield keeper Tommy Lee to claw the ball off his line.
Vale went down to 10 men in the 41st minute. Richards and centre-half Downes tangled when they chased for the ball towards the corner in Chesterfield’s half. The pair hit the floor and referee Craig Pawson adjudged Richards to have lashed out, possibly with his fist, and duly gave the 26-year-old his marching orders.
Chesterfield instantly made their extra man count as the half drew to a close and Martin had to be on his guard to deny further efforts from Picken and defender Danny Hall.
At the start of the second-half Vale centre-half Lee Collins produced a crucial diving block to prevent Ward’s low centre from reaching Robertson lurking eight yards out.
Boos could be heard when some of the support disapproved with Glover’s decision to take off Thomson on 53 minutes, as Perry made his entrance.
And a minute later Ian Richardson’s men took the lead after winning a corner. Swung over by Darren Currie, it was Downes who jumped the highest to power his eight-yard header into the top right-hand corner.
Lee then beat away Brown’s free-kick, before an unmarked Robertson managed to balloon his own eight-yarder over Martin’s goal.
Vale were refusing to lie down though backed by a fervent support less than impressed with some of Pawson’s officiating.
Vale had the ball in the net on 71 minutes when Perry headed home a Damien McCrory left-flank cross. However, the former Chasetown striker was adjudged to have taken up an offside position.
Glover attempted to liven up his attack in the 73rd minute, by replacing his son, Danny, with Dodds.
Brown then crossed well from the right, but there was no Vale player on hand in the six-yard box to convert.
Chersterfield were largely content to sit back and defend the lead, with Vale applying pressure without creating too many chances.
When Perry earned a free-kick from 25-yards out, the set-piece was knocked short to Davidson the young midfielder ht a disappointing low shot into the arms of Lee.
Seconds later and Perry should have done better when he connected with Griffith’s cross from the right, only to guide his angled six-yard header straight at the Chesterfield stopper, as Vale’s chances disappeared.
Although Brown had a penalty appeal turned down in injury time when he went over under a challenge from Kevin Austin.
PORT VALE 0
Port Vale: Martin, Griffith, Collins, Owen, McCrory, Davidson, Brown, Howland, Glover (Dodds, 73), Richards, Thompson (Perry, 53).
Not used: McCombe, Stockley, Lawrie.
Chesterfield: Lee, Gray, Hall, Downes, Picken, Currie (Austin, 87), Harsley, Lowry, Robertson, Ward, Lester.
Not used: Carson, Algar, Bowery, Boden.
Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)
Attendance: 5,011 (including 215 visitors)