Chesterfield 3 Gillingham 3 - Spireites pegged back by Gills
An inexperienced Chesterfield side were hit with a late, late sucker-punch as they surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Gillingham.
A brace from on loan Bolton striker Connor Wilkinson and a Kristian Dennis penalty looked to have secured the three points at the Proact.
Twice Chesterfield had a two-goal lead, but two penalties from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas made it a nervy finish before heartache at the death, Scott Wagstaff scoring after five minutes of time added on.
Until that the performance had been impressive, for a side containing five players who haven’t reached double figures of Football League appearances. Chesterfield made a lightning start, taking the lead with 60 seconds gone. Reece Mitchell won a free-kick, Jon Nolan swung it into the box and Connor Wilkinson headed home.
It wasn’t until the 32nd minute that Gillingham created a clear cut chance, Scott Wagstaff playing the ball across the home box where Jay Emmanuel Thomas was able to set himself to shoot, Tom Anderson flying in with a block.
Chesterfield remained in control of the game and doubled their lead seven minutes after the interval, Wilkinson beating two men to get into the box and feed Nolan who was tripped by Byrne. Dennis stepped up to plant the spot-kick in the left hand corner of the net to make it three goals in three starts for Chesterfield.
Despite being second best for over an hour, Gillingham were handed a way back into the game when Tom Anderson lost Deji Ohilaja in the area and resorted to pulling him back, referee Trevor Kettle pointing to the spot.
Emmanuel-Thomas stepped up and calmly found the middle of the goal to make it 2-1 with 25 minutes remaining.
But the Spireites responded in the perfect fashion, Liam Graham nipping in after Ariyibi’s initial attack had been foiled, feeding Wilkinson who drove into the box and dinked the ball over Nelson.
An action-packed second half took yet another twist when referee Kettle awarded his third penalty of the night, deciding that Laurence Maguire had tripped Wagstaff in the box, allowing Emmanuel-Thomas to dispatch the ball down the middle again.
There was late panic in the Spireites’ area, Ryan Fulton coming for a cross and spilling it under immense pressure, the ball mercifully headed over with the keeper on the deck.
The home fans were calling for a final whistle when Fulton miscued a free-kick and handed Gillingham a throw in and a last chance to attack.
And attack they did, exploiting defensive hesitancy to force an initial save from Fulton, the ball only pushed into the path of Wagstaff who finished well from an acute angle to spark wild celebrations in the away end and boos from the home fans for the referee’s generous injury time.
Chesterfield: Fulton, Graham, Maguire (Donohue 82), Hird, Anderson, Ariyibi, Mitchell (O’Shea 62), Nolan, Liddle, Dennis, Wilkinson 8 (Dimaio 76). Not used: Evatt, Gardner, German, Parkin.
Gillingham: Nelson, Osadebe, Wagstaff, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Pask, Knott (List 59), Byrne, Oldaker, Dack, Thomas. Not used: Hadler, Wright, Dickenson, Hessenthaler, Chapman, McDonald.
Referee: Mr Trevor Kettle. Assistants: Mr Peter Gooch, Mr Duncan Street.
Goalscorers: Wilkinson 2, 72, Dennis 52; Emmanuel-Thomas 65 (pen), 76 (pen), Wagstaff 90
Yellows: Wilkinson 43, 72, Anderson 64, Dennis 90; Knott 49, Oldaker 90
Attendance: 4,714 (124)