Chesterfield 0, Sheffield United 1
Chesterfield may have lost this pulsating derby clash against neighbours Sheffield United but there were clear signs of encouragement for the Spireites in the battle to stave off relegation.
The difference between the two sides was an 81st minute goal from Ched Evans but up to that point John Sheridan’s table-proppers has competed on equal terms with the promotion-seeking Blades.
The Blues, after conceding five goals at Oldham last week, looked a lot more solid at the back.
Keeper Greg Fleming was restored to the side while Scott Griffiths, again on loan from Peterborough, galvanised the back line with his inclusion at left back.
Partnered in central defence were Simon Ford and Neil Trotman and the back four, completed by skipper Drew Talbot, managed to repel all boarders until the Blades No 9 demonstrated his international class.
United’s decider came late on when it looked as if the match was heading for a draw, which would have been a fair outcome.
The Welsh international turned Neil Trotman and advanced towards the penalty area before beating Fleming with a well aimed low shot.
Chesterfield striker Jack Lester, who has recovered from a broken arm, made his first appearance since September but was unable to prevent the Spireites slipping to another defeat as United won at Chesterfield for the first time in 60 years.
The 1pm kick-off produced a lightning fast start but initially there was more heat than light.
There were claims for a Chesterfield penalty after 20 minutes when the United keeper Steve Simonson climbed all over Jordan Bowery as the pair went for a floated flick-on from Leon Clarke.
Simonson then appeared to hold Bowery down but referee Darren Sheldrake saw things differently and awarded the Blades a free kick.
Fleming did well to save an effort from Evans in the 26th minute and just after the half hour a Tope Obadeyi cross flashed dangerously across the United six yard box when any touch from a Blues frontman would have seen Sheridan’s men take the lead.
The Chesterfield stopper again did well as Chris Porter, sporting a bandage following a clash with Trotman, aimed for goal while at the other end Lee Johnson had a 15-yard effort pushed out for a corner by Simonson.
It was a neat move, involving Bowery and Clarke as the half ended all square.
Obadeyi deserved better when he turned on the afterburners after a United attack broke down. His pace took him clear and left him with only the Blades keeper to beat but Obadeyi’s finish was poor and easily collected by Simonson.
Leon Clarke hit the top of Simonson’s bar with a shot following a goalmouth scramble before a linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations of United fans.
The livewire Stephen Quinn thought he had given United the lead but his effort was ruled out for being offside.
But the game changed completely after Evans’ goal and despite the introductions of three substitutions in the 86th minute – including the return of Lester – there was insufficient time to force an equaliser.
Indeed, it took a great save from Fleming to prevent Quinn making it 2-0 to the visitors.
However, Chesterfield could take a great deal of heart from their performance despite the result.
If they continue to demonstrate such dogged commitment and passion, Sheridan’s men will soon climb to safety.
Chesterfield: Fleming, Trotman, Ford, Talbot, Griffiths, Allott, Johnson (Westcarr 86), Mendy, Bowery, Clarke (Lester 86), Obadeyi (Morgan 86). Subs not used: Whitaker, Mattis.
Sheffield United: Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Williams, Doyle, Williamson (Flynn 74), McAllister, Quinn, Evans, Porter (Ertl 89). Subs not used: Long, Lescinel, Flynn, McDonald.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey).
Attendance: 9,259 (2001 from Sheffield).