Chesterfield 2, Oldham Athletic 1
Chesterfield placed one foot on the hallowed Wembley turf after a thrilling victory over Oldham in the first leg of the JP Trophy’s Northern final.
Scott Boden gave the Spireites the lead early in the second-half before the Latics levelled through Shefki Kuqi in the 58th minute.
But a Danny Whitaker penalty in the 68th minute gave Chesterfield their first victory since they defeated Preston on penalties in the same competition in December.
The second leg of the Northern final will be televised and John Sheridan’s men need only to keep a clean sheet at Boundary Park on Monday, January 30, to book their ticket to the 90,000 all-seater venue.
Chesterfield gave home debuts to four players – full-back James Hurst, centre back Josh Thompson, plus midfielders David Davis and Jimmy Juan – and the new boys gave the Blues an extra bit of quality which made a big difference to the performance.
Ten minutes in saw Boden miss a golden opportunity to give the home side an early lead.
Neat link-up play from captain Jack Lester and Drew Talbot presented the unmarked striker with a clear cut opportunity but he glanced his header wide of the target.
Nine minutes before half-time, Boden squandered another chance when he miskicked a neat pass from Lester but he made no mistake four minutes into the second-half.
Talbot and Hurst combined on the right flank to set up Boden at the far post and he celebrated in front of the kop after tapping in Hurst’s pin-point cross from close range.
Three minutes later, Chesterfield had a dramatic let off when Thompson pulled back Kuqi in the area and the referee pointed to the spot.
Kuqi took the penalty himself but fortunately his shot clattered Tommy Lee’s bar and went behind for a goalkick.
Oldham, however, had the bit between their teeth and pulled level in the 58th minute when Robbie Sharpe powered home a 30-yard effort which deceived Lee.
For a short while the Latics were on top but it all changed very quickly when Lester went on a trademark jinking run and James Tarkowski was penalised for tripping him in the area.
Whitaker had missed his last penalty against Exeter but he made no mistake in the 67th minute to give Chesterfield a 2-1 lead.
Lee made a couple of first-class diving saves as the clock ticked down but it was Chesterfield’s night and they gave themselves an excellent chance of winning through to Wembley.
Chesterfield: Lee, Robertson, Thompson, Ford, Hurst, Whitaker (Mendy 75), Juan (Allott 90+2), Davis, Lester, Boden (Bowery 76), Talbot. Subs not used: Fleming, Smith.
Oldham: Cisak, Mvoto, Tarkowski, Wesolowski, Adeyemi, Parker, Taylor, Lee, Simpson, Scapuzzi (Morais 55), Kuqi (Smith 76). Subs not used: Bouzanis, Black, Mellor.
Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands).
Attendance: 5,724 (1,243 from Oldham).