Gary Caldwell’s Chesterfield picked up their first win of the season and kept a clean sheet to boot against a poor Port Vale side today at the Proact.
The result was made remarkable by the manner in which the two teams started, the Spireites looking all at sea for 25 minutes before a change in formation changed the game completely.
Vale had looked much the brighter early on against a Town side in a 3-5-2 shape - but when that changed to 4-4-2 Michael Brown’s men wilted.
Goals from Kristian Dennis and Jordan Sinnott took the game away from the Valiants before the interval and the hosts were rarely troubled after that.
Chesterfield had to defend a number of early set-pieces, including a corner that Lee attempted but failed to punch clear.
The home side should have gone in front on seven minutes, Jordan Sinnott playing a lovely ball in behind the defence, Kristian Dennis running onto it and poking across the face of goal and agonisingly wide.
Lee had to be sharp to prevent an Ian Evatt own goal, the centre-half misjudging a high ball and letting it bounce before forcing his keeper into a one-handed save with a header that was too strong.
Chesterfield’s inability to retain possession was putting them under pressure and at times in the opening 20 minutes it looked too easy for Michael Brown’s visitors, who threatened without creating more than half chances.
Gary Caldwell moved to shore things up with a change in formation, tucking Jordan Flores inside into midfield and going with a four-man defence, Scott Wiseman in an unfamiliar left-back role.
The change appeared to work, Town getting a grip on the game and creating opportunities - Sinnott shooting wide from distance before Flores tried to play in Dennis. O’Grady then had a shot, on the turn, that Sam Hornby collected easily.
And with six minutes left in the half the Spireites took complete control, Sinnott running right down the middle and waiting long enough for Dennis to time his run to perfection before playing in the striker, who slid home past Hornby.
Before half-time Town were flying - Sinott getting his first goal for the club.
The midfielder first took O’Grady’s flick on the volley from 25 yards and cracked the crossbar, and when Flores’ follow up was saved, Sinnott was there to stroke home the rebound.
His celebration of the goal, against a club his father managed, provoked an angry reaction from the away fans and in the aftermath a female steward was led out of the away end with what looked like a facial injury.
The Valiants came close to the perfect start to the second period with Michael Tonge’s 25-yard free-kick that beat the wall but flashed past Lee’s left-hand upright.
It was a fairly hum-drum first 20 minutes after the break, Chesterfield having plenty of possession without troubling their visitors too much - bar a Dennis pass to the back post that almost reached the feet of O’Grady.
Caldwell’s men, albeit on top on the scoreboard, fell into their old ways a couple of times - lackadaisical moments in possession setting Vale on counter attacks that were snuffed out quite easily.
Another careless bit of play, this time from Brad Barry, gave Vale the ball high up the pitch and substitute Anthony De Freitas dragged a shot wide - Lee still without a save to make.
But the goalkeeper did see action before the end, making a vital block on his line to keep out Tom Pope’s header from a corner as Vale sought what would have been a late consolation goal.
Caldwell’s men ran down the clock, substitutions helping to disrupt any momentum the visitors tried to build, before the final whistle gave the Scot his third win in 23 outings as Town boss.
Chesterfield: Lee; Barry, Flores (Maguire 90), Wiseman, Evatt, Hird; Weir, Sinnott (McCourt 85), Reed; Dennis, O’Grady (Ugwu 90). Subs: Anyon, Wakefield, Brewster, Mitchell.
Port Vale: Hornby, Wilson, Denton, Kay, Smith, Harness, Whitfield (De Freitas 62), Reeves (Stobbs 79), Tonge, Turner (Pyke 62), Pope. Subs: Davis, Gibbons, Boot, Gunning.
Goals: Dennis 39, Sinnott 43
Yellows: Wiseman 84, McCourt 90
Referee: Mr Tom Nield.
Assistants: Mr Richard Bartlett, Mr Danny Gratton.
Attendance: 5,058 (833 away)