Match report: Oxford United 0 Chesterfield 1

Sam Hird plays his part in another clean sheet for the Spireites.
Sam Hird plays his part in another clean sheet for the Spireites.

As far as weekends go, even at this stage of his career, Ritchie Humphreys can’t have had many better.

On Friday, the former Owls forward’s wife gave birth to the couple’s second child and 24 hours later Humphreys struck the only goal as Chesterfield won their top-of-the-table clash with Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium.

And if he hadn’t had much sleep, he certainly didn’t show it.

Last week in the victory over AFC Wimbledon, Humphreys was superb. This time around, he didn’t get as much change out of a strong Oxford backline, but, as he has shown throughout his career, give him half a chance and he’ll come up with the goods.

The goal arrived just before the half hour, when Eoin Doyle, himself hugely impressive on his first start of the season, coming in for the injured Marc Richards who picked up a knock in training on Friday, skipped into the box and crossed from the left for Humphreys to volley home with his left foot from 12 yards out.

Not a bad way to celebrate a new arrival and, unsurprisingly, the 35-year-old was beaming afterwards.

“The little boy’s doing great, and so is my wife,” said Humphreys. “To get a goal, some people might say it was already written, these sorts of things happen. But obviously I’m delighted and if there was ever a game or a win to dedicate to my family then this was it.”

It was a different kind of display from that fans of the Spireites have got used to seeing this season. The attacking flair was evident in patches, particlarly from Doyle - whose level of performance on the day, if kept up, could see Richards struggle to get back into the team - Tendayi Darikwa and Jay O’Shea, but these were three points that they really had to fight for.

And that can only be seen as a positive. So impressive has been their start to the season - now unbeaten in eight, with five wins on the spin - Paul Cook’s men are there to be shot at and opponents will do all they can to thwart that vast offensive threat.

That was evident when U’s skipper Andy Whing, who spent a period on loan at Spireites in 2010, was given a straight red card for a rash challenge on Doyle on 67 minutes.

They also have to deal with the odd bustling striker - and Oxford had two in former Blades frontman Dave Kitson and Deane Smalley, another former Chesterfield loan star.

The latter headed against the post with five minutes remaining in the home side’s best opportunity of the game. Overall, though, keeper Tommy Lee had very little to do and it was another test passed by the Spireites.

“I think we controlled the game,” said Humphreys. “I think we could have been a bit neater in our passing. In certain areas we gave the ball away and it gives them a little bit of a lift but I think anything that was thrown in the box ... we dealt with their set-plays.

“They have scored a lot of late goals here, but we dealt with it. They hit the post but apart from that we could have had a few more at the other end.”

Darikwa probably had the best of those chances after 12 minutes when he got on the end of a Drew Talbot cut-back but was denied by a fine save from Ryan Clarke in the Oxford goal.

And on having to dig in, rather than rely on their flair players, Humphreys added: “If you are going to be a successful team you have got to be able to do a little bit of everything.

“Obviously the way we want to play, the manager sets us up to play from the back and work our way up the pitch.

“There are going to be times when you have to be resolute, especially away from home - they were a big physical side, they have some big lads up there and put balls into the box.

“What you have to do is not let them have the ball and keep passing and find the gaps. You have to be patient, it’s not always easy on the eye for the fans, but our fans have been fantastic, they know what we are trying to do and they are patient.

“Sometimes you are passing it around the back but you do find the gap eventually.”

Chesterfield’s fans are certainly appreciating it. The travelling band numbered 1,066 for the battle of the top two and their support hasn’t gone unnoticed either.

Humphreys said: “That was an unbelieveable turn-out away from home, yet again.

“They are really supporting us and we are trying to repay it on the pitch.

“Whenever we score, every single outfield player is there celebrating no matter who it is and it’s a great feeling.”