Controversy is never far from the fore in derby games and this one didn’t disappoint.
It had everything supporters would have come to expect in the first meeting between the two clubs in almost five years, from penalty claims to a sending-off, as neither side held back in a full-blooded encounter.
Chesterfield had won seven of their eight League Two games and boasted a 100 per cent record in front of their own fans prior to kick-off but were left to rue a hatful of missed opportunities as Mansfield escaped from a packed Proact Stadium with all three points.
A combination of poor finishing and inspired goalkeeping by Stags’ Alan Marriott kept the Spireites, who had been instructed by manager Paul Cook prior to Saturday’s early kick-off to be more ruthless in front of goal, at bay.
Cook’s team have forged a reputation as a good passing side so far this season and quickly showed why as Gary Roberts went about setting the tone early on. The influential playmaker was at the heart of most things going forward for the Spireites and played a part in the move that saw Jimmy Ryan bring the best out of Marriott from distance, in what became a familiar sight as the match went on.
Eoin Doyle, so eager to impress in the absence of the injured Marc Richards, looked lively but wasted the best chance of the half when he was sent clean through by Roberts. The Irishman timed his run to perfection but angled a shot too close to Marriott and the keeper got down well.
It proved costly as Mansfield took the lead through Calvin Andrew’s first goal for the club moments later. The former Crystal Palace forward rose highest to meet Ben Hutchinson’s corner and powered a header past Tommy Lee from six yards to spark emotional scenes, as he ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the travelling support who had made the short journey up the A617.
The Spireites, so used to having things their way this season, were uncharacteristically rocked and Stags almost doubled their advantage when Sam Clucas rolled the ball back for Hutchinson who side-stepped his marker and sent a shot that crashed against the post.
Sam Morsy’s tenacity was beginning to shine through and he almost found the hosts a way back into the game when he directed Roberts’ cross against the woodwork from
And, as an equalising goal began to look less likely, the Spireites thought they had been handed a lifeline when referee Robert Madley blew up when Morsy went to ground under close attention. But, instead of pointing to the penalty spot, the official gave a free-kick and booked Morsy for simulation.
Marriott was the Stags’ saviour once more when he somehow got down to keep out Armand Gnanduillet’s rasping drive and capped off a defiant performance by thwarting Doyle again from close range.
A disappointing day for Chesterfield was compounded when tempers flared late on and Roberts was shown a straight red card for treading on James Jennings deep into injury time
Roberts is so often the man the Spireites’ look to for inspiration and, with four goals and four assists this season, will be missed over the coming weeks.
All good things must come to an end, but how Chesterfield wished it hadn’t been at the hands of their arch-rivals who claimed the bragging rights in this first chapter between the two sides this season.