Chesterfield hold a commanding position going into the second leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern area final after a 3-1 win over Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium.
The first half of this epic tie was a blistering encounter which saw Spireites go two goals ahead through Ian Evatt and Sam Morsy in an action-packed first 45 minutes.
David Ball grabbed one back for the hosts, who had two goals ruled out for offside, shortly before the break but a Jimmy Ryan thunderbolt ensured Chesterfield hold the advantage.
Paul Cook kept faith in the same 11 which have begun the last three games - and picked up three wins - to hit the top of League Two.
Spireites have been quick out of the blocks in recent games against Northampton Town, York City and Bristol Rovers, but a Fleetwood side, at home, were never going to give them that luxury.
Graham Alexander’s side were lively from the off and almost had a dream start when a training ground corner routine saw Nathan Pond head into the far corner of the net, only for the referee’s assistant to cut the celebrations short for offside.
Chesterfield had Liam Cooper to thank moments later when he bravely threw himself in front of Ball’s fierce drive from inside the penalty area. The visitors responded when Eoin Doyle pounced on a defensive mistake, caused by the blustery conditions, only to drag his shot wide.
Cook’s side were desperate to get the ball at their feet and spring attacks from midfield, a formula which has worked so well for them in recent weeks, but they were soon put on the back foot again when Antoni Sarcevic moved the ball well down the right and unleashed a powerful effort across goal which narrowly missed Tommy Lee’s far post.
Against the run of play, Chesterfield took the lead through Evatt. Gary Roberts curled in a free-kick midway through the hosts’ half into a crowded penalty box and Evatt was in the right place to turn the ball past Scott Davies.
The goal had clearly stunned Fleetwood and they were left completely shell-shocked just three minutes later when Ollie Banks nipped in ahead of Davies in an attempt to reach Doyle’s right wing cross. It caused the keeper to fumble, and, when the ball fell for Morsy on the edge of the area, the midfielder fired a shot into the top corner of the net in front of an ecstatic travelling support.
It could have been worse for the hosts when Ritchie Humphreys sent a long ball forward looking for Doyle. It held up in the wind, which deceived Davies, and allowed the in-form striker to get a toe to the ball only for his effort to roll wide.
Fleetwood were left frustrated when they had the ball in the back of the net for a second time when Jon Parkin tucked in from close range, and for a second time the officials ruled it out for offside. The home faithful were incensed and Parkin was booked for his protestations.
They finally got their goal just moments before the break when Ball latched on to Parkin’s header to send a header of his own past Lee from close range to give the hosts a lifeline.
Fleetwood picked up where they had left off and Ball scooped a shot over Lee’s bar. Chesterfield, however, looked lethal on the break and flooded forward with menace at every opportunity.
The action had experienced a lull before Ryan reminded everyone there was still a game going on when he sent a fierce shot with the outside of his right foot into the far corner of the net past the despairing dive of Davies.
Fleetwood were looking at each other for inspiration, and Humphreys threw his body on the line to block Parkin’s volley from close range at the death as the hosts tried in vain to reduce the arrears ahead of the return leg at the Proact on Monday, Febuary 17.
Goals: Evatt 21, Morsy 24, Ryan 65 (Chesterfield); Ball 45 (Fleetwood),
Chesterfield: Lee 7, Darikwa 7, Evatt 8, Cooper 8, Humphreys 8, Morsy 8, Ryan 8 (Hird 84), Gardner 6 (Talbot 53), Banks 7, Roberts 7; Doyle 7 (Richards 77). Subs not used: O’Shea, Dunbavin.
Fleetwood: Davies 6, McLaughlin 6, Pond 7, Roberts 6, Taylor 6, Brown 6, Goodall 6, Murdoch 6 (Evans 74), Sarcevic 5, Parkin 6, Ball 7 (Mandron 68). Subs not used: Schumacher, Hogan, Maxwell.
Bookings: Taylor, Parkin; Morsy, Lee.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)