Chesterfield climb to third after last-gasp win against Altrincham - how it happened
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The centre-back glanced in Jeff King’s corner on 88 minutes to break the deadlock after a frustrating evening at the Technique Stadium against a well-organised Robins outfit.
Victory means the Spireites climb to third. They trail leaders Wrexham by 13 points but the Blues have three games in hand.
It looked like being a missed opportunity for Town but they found a way to win much to the relief of the home faithful.
There were three changes to the starting line-up from the defeat to West Brom a week ago. Palmer, Ollie Banks and Joe Quigley replaced Tyrone Williams, Darren Oldaker and Kabongo Tshimanga, who was not even in the squad.
Altrincham arrived at the Technique Stadium 10 games unbeaten in all competitions but they were without key defender and former Spireites transfer target Toby Mullarkey, who was apparently struggling with a ‘slight strain’ and could only make the bench, although reported EFL interest in him may have been the real reason.
The Spireites lacked a spark in the first-half, managing just two shots on target, one from Liam Mandeville which forced Ollie Byrne to parry, and another from distance from Banks. Other than that, they had been a bit flat and there were grumblings from some home fans as they gave away possession cheaply at times.
Altrincham, however, were well-organised and you could see why they had collected useful draws on the road recently at Woking, Southend United and Halifax. On this evidence, it was hard to understand why they had only won twice on their travels all season.
The Robins had actually had the better chances and may have felt they should have been ahead. They were denied when Palmer made a last-ditch interception to prevent Jordan Hulme from having a tap-in. They also had a glorious opportunity to take the lead when Hulme slipped in former Spireites loanee Marcus Dinanga one-on-one but he prodded well wide.
Chesterfield moved the ball quicker at the start of the second-half, Mike Jones bringing a fingertip save out of Byrne with a low shot from the edge of the box and then Banks clipped an effort over the woodwork.
Altrincham responded as their top scorer Chris Conn-Clarke pinched the ball off Jones before taking aim but Covolan was equal to it.
The Spireites were more in control after the break but they struggled to create anything of note.
With 20 minutes remaining, new signing Ryan Colclough came on for his debut against his former club, replacing Quigley, with Akwasi Asante moved up front.
Paul Cook rolled the dice again on 80 minutes, with Mandeville coming off for Jesurun Uchegbulam.
The winner did not look like coming, and it was harsh on Altrincham, but it arrived on 88 minutes when Palmer headed in King's corner.
It will not be a game that lives long in the memory but who knows how important these three points could be come May.