Spireites overcame the odds to register a spirited win at Vale Park, a fourth victory in the club’s last five visits to the Potteries.
Eoin Doyle opened the scoring with his 5th goal of the season early on before, just as Spireites were bossing it, Mark Marshall leveled just before the break.
Gary Roberts, who had a superb game throughout, mesmerised defender Ryan McGivern just 15 seconds into the second half to score what ultimately turned out to be the winner.
With Chesterfield’s small squad tested to the limit with five first teamers injured and a sixth, Ollie Banks, less than fully fit on the bench, Paul Cook’s task was made even tougher when central defender Sam Hird limped off before the half hour mark.
The former Doncaster Rovers man picked up a knee injury when fouled by Frederic Veseli, who was lucky to only pickup the first of what ultimately became ten yellow cards issued in a game full of players squaring up with each other and group handbags galore.
Skipper Ian Evatt was shown two of the cards, the second on 83 which led to Jack Broadhead coming on to join fellow sub Charlie Raglan in the heart of the back four. Both players were making their league debuts.
Aston Villa loanee Daniel Johnson was given his first Spireites start and only his fourth league starting eleven spot, linking him with ex Vale man Sam Morsy in the holding midfield slot. Hird’s injury prompted Cook to reunite Morsy with Jimmy Ryan, who’d been in the attacking midfield trio, and Johnson was pushed up to continue an impressive performance with plenty of good running on and off the ball and some slick passing.
Vale started well with ex-Miller Tom Pope and Marshall registering early headers.
However it was the visitors that struck first. Armand Gnanduillet, who gave his best 90 minute performance in what was only his 17th first team start, fed Roberts. The reigning League Two Player of the Year spotted an opportunity and shot from the right corner of the penalty box. His shot beat keeper Sam Johnson but hit the far post for Doyle, playing as a midfielder, anticipated perfectly to follow up to shin home from close range.
Dan Jones, booed on every touch on his return to Vale Park after being sacked in March after a training ground incident with Doug Loft, made a stunning tackle to rob the flying Marshall, Vale’s best man by a country mile. Tendayi Darikwa continually dealt well with Chris Lines and Richard Duffy down the left.
With Chesterfield on top Vale, who’d seen Pope hit the post in a rare first half break, went route one to equalise. The keeper booted long, the ball was headed on and Marshall picked up on the right. A headed touch saw him sprint into a shooting position and his rising thunderbolt hammered the roof of the net.
Just fifteen seconds into the second half Roberts notched his first goal of the season. Receiving from Gnanduillet’s nod on, he ran into the box and showed just why he’s so highly rated with a goal of sheer class.
Vale began to commit more men forwards, Colin Daniel forced a fine save from Tommy Lee, but the gaps were taken advantage of, Morsy picking up on the halfway line, drove forwards and hit a peach of a 30 yarder onto the bar.
The afternoon ended with allegations of racism towards Gnanduillet plus tunnel skirmishes, but that failed to knock the sheen off a terrific win from a mature looking Spireites side.
Port Vale: Johnson 6; Veseli 6, Duffy 6, McGivern 5, Dickinson 5; Marshall 9, O’Connor 7, Lines 6 (Brown 70), Daniel 7 (Slew 64, 6); Pope 7, Williamson 5 (Moore 64, 5). Subs (not used): Neal, Birchall, Dodds, Jennings.
Chesterfield: Lee 6; Darikwa 7, Evatt 7, Hird 6 (Raglan 29, 8), Jones 7; Morsy 7, Johnson 7 (Broadhead 85); Ryan 6, Roberts 9 (Banks 90+5), Doyle 6; Gnanduillet 8. Subs (not used): Chapman, Ariyibi, Onovwigun, Dawes.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)