Exeter City 2 Chesterfield 1
Chesterfield slumped to a third consecutive League One defeat at the hands of Exeter City, themselves winless at kick-off time.
John Sheridan’s men, who had three debutants, lost out when sub Tom Nichols, the day before his 18th birthday, turned Simon Ford on the box edge to grab the 82nd minute winner. It was the youngster’s first ever senior goal.
The Grecians had taken the lead on 16 when Billy Jones’s corner, earned after Nathan Smith had blocked a David Noble cross, was miscued by Mark Allott.
The spinning loose ball fell to Troy Archibald-Henville whose shot was far from what he intended, but the downward hit bounced up over Tommy Lee.
Parity was restored after 33 minutes when Scott Boden’s right sided cross struck the arm of Danny Coles and from the subsequent penalty, Danny Whitaker converted.
It was his tenth successful penalty for the club, levelling Kevin Randall’s tally, but he’s a way to go to catch all-time spot-kick king Alan Birch, who hit 19 in from 12 yards.
However with the game between two clearly under-par sides there to be won, Chesterfield were unable to find the way through and succumbed to Nichols’ effort.
The manager gave starts to Lee Johnson, Craig Westcarr and, on the day, the best of the trio, Jonathan Grounds.
Ford and Dean Holden also came in. Jack Lester, Jordan Bowery and Aaron Downes moved to the bench while Derek Niven and Dwayne Mattis, both with ankle injuries, missed out completely.
City gave a debut for twice seven-figure transfer man Rowan Vine, borrowed from QPR.
Allott had to leave the field early on with what looked like a dislocated finger ahead of Whitaker delivering the game’s first shot on target, it was blocked, after a short corner routine with Johnson.
A Whitaker header was saved by Artur Kryziak following a Drew Talbot cross ahead of the opening goal.
The scorer had another chance but defensive midfielder Archibald-Henville, who’d only bagged a single career goal ahead of the game, half-heartedly hit the side netting after the visiting defence had again looked suspect from a corner.
Allott’s 25 yarder brought the best out of Krysiak and Westcarr, who started brightly but faded later amidst a bevy of offside flags, fired within a whisker after side-stepping the keeper but he was forced very wide and was unable to hit the mark.
Boden had two headers, he fired one over and badly misjudged the second when in a terrific spot,
Vine back-heeled a shot wide before Whitaker’s equaliser.
Daniel Nardiello and Vine both skied first-half efforts over from good positions as the game expanded.
Westcarr aired a shot when a goal looked a possibility following good work from Boden as the pace fell and City introduced Nichols and Chris Shephard.
Boden shot wide from a rare chance for either side as both outfits seemed to settle for a point but immediately after City’s final change, they won the game with Shephard setting up his fellow sub.
Nardiello came closest to another goal, hitting a sitter over from ten yards, but it didn’t matter as his side gained some revenge for losing 6-1 on Spireites’ last visit to St James’ Park.
Exeter: Krysiak; Tully, Duffy, Coles (Logan 81), Jones (Nichols 63); Dunne, Archibald-Henville, Noble, Golbourne; Vine (Shephard 63), Nardiello. Subs not used: Pidgeley, Bennett.
Chesterfield: Lee; Holden, Ford (Bowery 84), Grounds, Smith; Talbot, Allott (Morgan 89), Johnson, Whitaker; Boden (Lester 79), Westcarr. Subs not used: Fleming, Downes.
Attendance: 4,113 (319 from Chesterfield).
Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffs).
Booked: Smith, Holden.