Charlton Athletic 3 Chesterfield 1
Two first-half goals gave what Spireites boss John Sheridan called: “a mountain to climb.” But they almost conquered it.
A 19th minute opener from Paul Hayes, a neat flick after Bradley Wright-Phillips had hit an effort goalwards, was followed ten minutes later by a John Jackson left footer from a Dale Stephens free kick, awarded after a handball by Drew Talbot.
Before the break Leon Clarke, seeking to be the first Spireite since 1932 to score in his first four appearances, missed a gilt edged chance when he volleyed over from three yards after his side’s only first-half corner was played short by Danny Whitaker to Craig Westcarr, who delivered to his strike partner.
After being second best in the opening 45, Chesterfield stepped things up after the break and, on 53, the game’s biggest talking point occurred.
Alex Mendy crossed in from the right and the ball clearly struck Rhoys Wiggins’ wayward arm, in the box, but no penalty was given.
Sheridan said: “It was a joke decision. He gave a free kick against Talbot on the other side of the pitch and ours was an absolute blatant penalty. I asked the fourth official ‘how’s that not a penalty?’
“Obviously I said it in a way I shouldn’t have said it and I end up being sent to the stand. But it was a blatant penalty and a joke decision.”
The Spireites did earn a penalty on 72 when Clarke’s burst into the box was ended by Michael Morrision, who instantly knew his challenge would be punished.
Clarke was desperate to take the penalty but skipper Drew Talbot told him Whitaker was the spot-king and he subsequently drove home his 11th Chesterfield penalty to put him equal with Ray McHale and Lee Turnbull in sixth place in the club’s all time list.
In their first visit to The Valley since 1980, and watched by League One’s biggest crowd this season, the manager selected an unchanged team for the first time in a year.
Last time, after a 3-0 home win over Cheltenham Town, the same XI succumbed at the Don Valley Stadium to an Adam Le Fondre goal.
Table-topping Charlton, unbeaten, soon showed their pedigree. Chesterfield had a decent opening few minutes before the Addicks took over.
Wright-Phillips, who concluded the scoring in stoppage time, heading home Scott Wagstaff’s cross, had an early shot as did home skipper Jackson and Danny Hollands.
Jonathan Grounds had to head a Jackson shot over his own bar, Morrison had a shot deflected from one of a clutch of corners won early by Chris Powell’s side and Nathan Smith had to head a Hayes effort away from on the line.
It was no surprise when the hosts scored. Greg Fleming had to push away under pressure from Hollands and the loose ball found its way in via Wright-Phillips and then Hayes. Simon Ford nicked the ball off the toes of Hayes when he looked set to score again and Fleming saved well from the same player ahead of Charlton’s second.
Following Clarke’s miss, Wagstaff went within inches just before the break.
The Spireites were a different animal in the second-half. Westcarr and Whitaker went close ahead of the non-penalty decision and after it, Ben Hamer saved a Whitaker shot ahead of his successful penalty goal.
Charlton regrouped and Hayes hit the bar before former Matlock Town man Matt Taylor tumbled under pressure from Ford.
The home fans and players screamed for a penalty, the whistle blew, and Taylor was booked for simulation.
Mendy hit wide and Fleming saved from Wright-Phillips before the Charlton made wrapped things up in the second minute of stoppage time.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Taylor, Morrison, Wiggins; Wagstaff (Hughes 90+4), Stephens, Jackson, Hollands; Hayes (Kermorgant 80), Wright-Phillips. Subs (not used): Sullivan, Euell, Cort.
Chesterfield: Fleming; Talbot, Ford, Grounds, Smith; Mendy, Allott, Johnson (Morgan 81), Whitaker; Clarke, Westcarr (Boden 88).
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)
Booked: Talbot, Taylor
Attendance: 22,151 (1,225 from Chesterfield).