Chesterfield v Port Vale: the importance of teamwork

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Robert Page – www.stokesentinel.co.uk

Finances are tight at Chesterfield and Port Vale. Both clubs lost key men in the summer and were not able to bring in players of guaranteed, proven quality at this level. These similarities in financial limitations beg the question: why is it that Chesterfield remain in a relegation scrap but Port Vale have spent much of the season – albeit no longer – chasing a play-off place?

The answer lies in passion, teamwork and commitment, qualities modestly represented in the transfer market but of vital importance on the pitch. Three weeks ago, Valiants forward Louis Dodds compared the team spirit in his side’s camp to that of Premier League leaders Leicester City.

That might seem a extreme comparison, but the essence of what Dodds said held significance. Vale players are not thinking about the future, they are focused entirely on the here and now, on the team, on winning the next game. Manager Robert Page deserves credit for creating that culture and it is no coincidence that he has done so whilst not making lots of signings mid-season.

Since August, he brought in just two new players, Theo Robinson from Motherwell and Matthew Kennedy on loan from Cardiff. Although those particular players are yet to impress in Burslem, the general principle of not upsetting the apple-cart has worked.

Chesterfield, by contrast, have brought in four times the number of players in that time and it has done little to help their cause. Almost none of the eight players they signed mid-season are uniformly seen as a successful acquisition. The only exception may be Declan John, who has added pace at left-back, an important area with Dan Jones injury-prone, Drew Talbot slow and Dion Donohue untested.

It would be inaccurate to say Danny Wilson’s first three months in charge have been a disaster. The Spireites’ defence, so long their Achilles heel, has conceded 21 goals in 16 games since he took over at Christmas. Records suggest that had the returning 56-year-old taken over in the summer, his team’s goals against tally would be better than Rochdale’s. Chesterfield are above the relegation zone at present and Wilson has done well to re-organize the team.

Equally, one is left with a feeling that the vague improvement in results represent temporary water treading, rather than finding a metaphorical boat. The team remains prone to more flat performances than may be natural and displays over Easter cause concern. Against relegation rivals Fleetwood and Oldham, the team failed to hit the target, raising questions about the team’s lack of passion and endeavour.

What you can almost guarantee from Port Vale is that, when they are not playing their best football, they will still compete. The Valiants have conceded 2+ goals in just 12 of their 40 league games this season, only five teams have done so less frequently. Chesterfield have a few players who are guilty of inconsistency, who do not always do the dirty work.

The Spireites lack pace and dynamism in their side, something Vale have in abundance. The injury return of AJ Leitch-Smith, who has proved the pre-season doubters wrong with 11 goals this term, will only add to that.