"The gap is starting to look a bit daunting,” Vale manager Grant Sandison told The Southern Reporter. “To be fair to Gretna, they’ve done really well.
"We came in and wanted to get as close to them as we can. Obviously for us to go ahead it means we’ve got to pick up points and they’ve not.
"It’s been the other way around. But until it’s mathematically impossible we’ll keep trying. It’s certainly getting harder.
"We’ve got nine games to go and we’ve got to try and rack up as many points as we can if we want to catch Gretna.
"Each passing week there’s a game less so each week’s a must win game I would say.”
On the heavy loss at Spartans, Sandison added: “They were at their best, we were at our worst. I thought that was the best performance we’ve faced against another side this season. I thought they were really good but equally we were just as bad.
"Spartans never gave us a minute’s peace. We didn’t defend well but partly that was down to how well they played.
"I felt that in every aspect of the game, in every area of the park, they were just miles ahead of us.”
Vale, who have signed left sided midfielder Rob Dryden on loan from Stirling Albion until the end of the season, have a friendly at Edinburgh United this Saturday.
Their next league game is at East Kilbride a week on Saturday.
"Rob played the full game last Saturday,” Sandison said. “He is a good football player, likes to get forward, has a lot of energy, skilful and great delivery. He showed in flashes on Saturday the qualities he’s got.
"It just wasn’t the kind of game for him but we can definitely see going forward that he’s a good player.”
Two players – a forward and a central midfielder – are training with Vale this week with a view to them playing as triallists this Saturday.