Chesterfield fell to a second consecutive defeat as AJ Leitch-Smith’s fourth goal in three games helped Port Vale to a victory at a frosty Vale Park.
The wintry conditions made for an unpredictable contest that got off to a lightning-fast start with three goals in the opening ten minutes.
Sam Kelly’s first ever league goal put the Valiants ahead inside six minutes and Leitch-Smith regained the hosts’ lead four minutes later after Lee Novak had hit back immediately for the Spireites.
Louis Dodds furthered the advantage early in the second half and, despite Rai Simons scoring an excellent consolation in stoppage time, it was Vale who held on for a second win in three days.
Vale Park had been a happy hunting ground for Chesterfield in recent years, avoiding defeat in their last five visits stretching back to August 2006. Accompanied with their promising away form, picking up three points from each of their last three away trips, the omens appeared to be in the Spireites’ favour this afternoon.
Realistically of course, it was never going to be that simple on the road against a side with an identical points tally prior to the game. And Irish midfielder Kelly made it clear the challenge that the visitors faced as he put Vale ahead after just six minutes – skidding the ball across the snow-covered surface to beat Tommy Lee down to his left.
It was a blow to Chesterfield, who had spent virtually the entirety of the previous five minutes in the Vale half. But they quickly made amends and were level only two minutes later when Novak volleyed home his fourth goal of the season from inside the area.
A crazy opening ten minutes still weren’t over though as Leitch-Smith added to Thursday night’s brace at Maidenhead United with another goal. Kelly was this time the creator, charging down the left before squaring to the 25-year-old forward who regained Vale’s lead in the tenth minute.
The remainder of the first half was comparatively uneventful , but still saw chances at both ends! Novak searched for his second goal but could only send the ball high over the bar before Dodds’ glancing header tested the alertness of Lee, who held the effort well.
Chesterfield did have the ball in the net again shortly before the break, but Richard Wood was adjudged offside by the assistant referee as he slotted the ball past goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.
The visitors may have felt that the half time scoreline was somewhat unjust. But some poor defending had proved costly and it did so yet again early in the second period as Dodds was allowed plenty of time and space to make it 3-1 by cannoning the ball in off the post.
Port Vale’s third appeared to knock the stuffing out of the Spireites, whose closest attempt in some time actually came from defender Anthony Grant’s head – his large deflection forcing Alnwick to tip over Jay O’Shea’s whipped in free kick.
In fact it was Vale who looked more likely to add to their lead. Ryan McGivern very nearly did just that as he Sam Foley’s corner with a powerful free header but could only direct the ball high into the stands.
With his side struggling, manager Dean Saunders attempted to freshen up the side by bringing on youngsters Gboly Ariyibi, Simons and Ollie Banks – the latter very nearly making an instant impact as his effort smashed the crossbar from just inside the area.
But Chesterfield’s afternoon was seemingly summed up just moments before the end of normal time when veteran striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake somehow directed a free header wide of the target from little more than six yards out.
As the three minutes of additional time were announced, the result appeared to be a formality. But Bermudan international Simons had other ideas, picking out the top corner with a wonderful strike to set up a frantic conclusion.
Sadly for the 356 away supporters however, it proved to be nothing more than a consolation goal as the Valiants clung on to earn a third consecutive league victory.
Port Vale (3)
Line-up: Alnwick (Neal ’81), Dickinson, McGivern, Duffy, Dodds, Foley, Yates, Kelly (Daniel ’88), Moore, Leitch-Smith, Grant
Unused subs: Purkiss, Streete, Birchall, Ikpeazu, Hooper
Scorers: Kelly ‘6, Leitch-Smith ’10, Dodds ’48
Line-up: Lee, Hird, Jones, Evatt, Wood (Simons ’74), Morsy, Herd (Banks ’69), O’Shea, Gardner (Ariyibi ’60), Ebanks-Blake, Novak
Unused subs: Chapman, O’Neil, Talbot, Raglan
Scorers: Novak ‘8, Simons ’90
Attendance: 4402 (356 away)
Date: 21st November 2015
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