Oxford United 1 Chesterfield 1: Ched Evans cracker earns Spireites a point

Ched Evans celebrates his brilliant free kick equaliser on his return to league football.  Piture: James Williamson
Ched Evans celebrates his brilliant free kick equaliser on his return to league football. Piture: James Williamson

Ched Evans was the focus of attention as Chesterfield started their 2016/17 season at newly-promoted Oxford United – and the striker made the headlines again.

The Welshman – playing in his first league game since his rape conviction was quashed in April – earned his side a point in their League One opener.

Ched Evans strikes home his free kick. Picture: James Williamson

Ched Evans strikes home his free kick. Picture: James Williamson

His thunderous free-kick from 25 yards in the 76th minute cancelled out a first-half strike from Wes Thomas, making his debut for the U’s.

The hosts got on top in the opening 45 minutes of the season with some crisp passing moves and a high-tempo style of play which earned them promotion to League One for the first time in 15 years.

Ryan Taylor should have put the U’s ahead after 19 minutes, but hit his shot tamely into Liverpool loanee Ryan Fulton.

Charlie Raglan and Ian Evatt were looking resolute in defence for the visitors, but in the 31st minute their hard work was undone.

Chris Maguire’s lovely cross-field pass found Alex MacDonald, who saw his shot get saved before Thomas pounced on the rebound.

Fulton was called into action again just before the break as the quick feet of Thomas produced another chance, but a comfortable save.

The Spireites came out for the second half in a spirited mood, but Thomas nearly made it 2-0, only being denied by the post.

Hopes for the visitors remained high and Evans, who was greeted with boos whenever on the ball, was their main target man.

He squandered two decent opportunities in the space of seven minutes, with Simon Eastwood making a good save before the 27-year-old spooned his next effort wide.

United then went on the charge and would have gone further ahead if it was not for a great interception at the back post from Raglan with Thomas waiting to score.

Then came the moment for Evans to show why Danny Wilson had signed him.

The Spireites won a free-kick outside the box and Evans, stepping up confidently, rifled in a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, sparking wild celebrations.

United surged forward looking to get back ahead, but other than a half chance from Tyler Roberts, they had could not find the magic touch.

Oxford (4-4-2): Eastwood, Long, Nelson, Dunkley (Ruffels 40), Skarz, MacDonald, Lundstram, Sercombe, Maguire (Roberts 64), Thomas (Hemmings 81), Taylor.

Subs not used: Buchel, Crowley, Rothwell, Welch-Hayes.

Chesterfield (4-4-2): Fulton, McGinn, Evatt, Raglan, Donohue, Gardner (Simons 67), Nolan, Liddle, Ariyibi, Evans (Dennis 88, N/A), O’Shea .

Subs not used: Mitchell, Dimaio, Allinson, Maguire, Daley.