CHESTERFIELD took another giant step towards their inevitable promotion with two second-half goals against play-off-chasing but managerless Port Vale.
Jack Lester, presented with a silver salver ahead of kick-off to mark his 500th league appearance last week, headed Chesterfield ahead three minutes after the break. He rose above marker Lee Collins at the far post to connect with a peach of a cross from Dean Morgan, who’d had to squeeze through two defenders to deliver, to notch his 15th goal of the season, all scored at the B2net.
Deane Smalley cemented victory with his 11th Spireites goal, everyone of them coming in 2011, after a defence-splitting ball from Drew Talbot, who was being marshalled by a couple of men. The striker then coolly rounded keeper Stuart Tomlinson to maintain John Sheridan’s side’s 11-point cushion at the head of the table.
With another bumper crowd in evidence, the home side came out of the traps quickly. Dean Holden headed within a whisker from the third of three early Spireites corners before Craig Davies, a successful loanee at Vale last term, twice struck the post.
His first brush with the woodwork came with a downward header from a cross from Man of the Match Mark Allott and he then scissor kicked against the other post following a Danny Whitaker delivery.
With Dwayne Mattis back in defence after injury, replacing hamstring victim Scott Griffiths, the home rearguard kept leading scorer Marc Richards and Miller loan man Tom Pope at bay. Only rarely did Tommy Lee have to intervene; in fact a second-half Pope header from a Gary Roberts ball was Vale’s only on-target effort.
Lester’s goal re-ignited the home support after a quiet spell in the latter stages of the first half and from then on the Spireites always looked the most likely second scorers. Kris Taylor and Adam Yates had to raid their top drawers to find tackles to rob Smalley and Whitaker respectively before Smalley’s goal confirmed the table-toppers’ superiority.
Referee Steve Tanner had to be replaced by fourth official Chris Knowles following what looked like a calf injury. He was followed on to the sidelines by Mattis, who was suffering on his return, but his manager indicated he should be back in contention for the weekend.
Sheridan was full of praise for his entire team: “We well deserved to win, I don’t think Tommy’s had a save to make. We started the game really well and could have been two or three nil up inside the first 15 minutes.
“We hit the post twice and had one or two other little opportunities but it just didn’t break for us. I’ve just got to praise the players for what was a very professional job; we went about things in the right way and created lots of opportunities and won the game two-nil against a strong outfit with good players.”
Everyone of his line-up contributed to the victory, but it was midfielder Allott whose performance was above all others.
The former Oldham man, in his second spell at Chesterfield, is just four games short of becoming only the 16th man to make 300 league appearances for Spireites.
The Mancunian’s passing from the centre was, as usual, precise and effective. His awareness of what is going on around him is second to none and his value to the team is often more appreciated by his colleagues rather than the fans, but in this game the quality was so high it was clear for all to see.
Shrewsbury’s win over Macclesfield means promotion can’t be achieved at Hereford United on Saturday so the champagne will need to be on ice for just a little longer.