Spot-on Dan takes Blues clear at top

Southend United 2,

Chesterfield 3

Two penalties from Danny Whitaker sandwiching a goal from man of the match Deane Smalley were enough to see off Southend United and lead to John Sheridan’s side opening up a five-point gap at the top of the League Two table.

The Shrimpers were always chasing the game after being two down with less than 20 minutes played, but goals from Craig Easton and Barry Corr, also a penalty, gave them some hope, but the Spireites ran out deserved winners.

After the last-gasp comeback at Accrington Stanley, the manager made three personnel changes and a formation switch in a bid to prevent another poor showing on the road.

Jack Lester was rested, Jordan Bowery was also on the bench alongside Derek Niven while in came Smalley, Jack Hunt, in the final game of his six-month loan spell, and fit again Mark Allott.

The manager selected a 4-3-3 line-up with Smalley the focus up front with Drew Talbot supporting right and Whitaker on the left.

Hunt’s recall at right back meant Simon Ford reverted to centre back and Dwayne Mattis was switched into midfield.

With Craig Davies at home in bed with ‘flu, any pre-match thoughts of ‘where will the goals come from?’ was lifted as Chesterfield took the game by storm.

Mattis was set up by Whitaker in the opening minute but keeper Glenn Morris intervened and an early gil-edged chance was lost. However with just 12 minutes on the clock, the lead went Chesterfield’s way.

Hunt and Talbot combined magnificently on the right and the full back burst into the box to be upended by Easton and a penalty was awarded.

Whitaker, successful with five efforts from the spot to date, stepped up to take his season’s tally to ten in the quickest time of the 30-yea-old’s career.

Seven minutes later and the gap had been doubled. Whitaker, deep in his own half, spotted Smalley’s run on the half way line and he delivered an inch-perfect ball for the raider to control and leave his two markers in his wake.

No mistake in front of Morris and the man borrowed from Oldham Athletic slotted the ball home to follow up from his goal at the Crown Ground. Not since 2008 had the 22-year-old scored in consecutive games.

Tommy Lee had to make a fine one-handed save to keep out Ryan Hall in what was otherwise a first-half completely controlled by a classy looking visiting side, without a win at Roots Hall since 1998.

Paul Sturrock’s side pulled one back after 58 minutes. A long throw from the left was inadequately cleared despite Chesterfield having two efforts to hoof away. The ball fell for Easton whose 25-yarder clipped Hunt and flew in via the inside of the post.

It took just four minutes for Chesterfield to restore their two-goal margin. Whitaker had a shot saved and Talbot, controlling the loose ball, was tripped by Hall and a second penalty was awarded. Again Whitaker put it away.

That goal seemed to knock the wind out of United’s sails but with seven minutes of normal time remaining, Ian Breckin was adjudged to have shoved Corr over and the Irishman dusted himself down to score from yet another spot kick.

There were a few minor skirmishes in the Chesterfield box in the final flurries of the game, but nothing too serious, and the visitors ended the game with a fully deserved maximum and a season’s first win-double.

Southend: Morris; Clohessy, Coughlan, Barker, Herd; Comminges (Ferdinand HT), Grant, Easton, Hall; Corr, Paterson (Sturrock 79). Subs not used; Evans, Gilbert, Phillips, Soares, Woodyard.

Chesterfield: Lee; Hunt, Ford, Breckin, Robertson; Mattis, Allott, Morris (Niven 73); Talbot, Whitaker, Smalley (Bowery 90+4). Subs not used: Redmond, Lester, Boden, Clay.

Booked: Hunt, Mattis, Allott, Lee.

Referee: Roger East (Salisbury).

Attendance: 4,922.