Chesterfield 1 Torquay United 3
Chesterfield did nothing to improve one of the most embarrassing records in the FA Cup when they were sent crashing out at the first hurdle by Division Two side Torquay.
It is 15 years since the Spireites last beat a League side in the competition – defeating Wrexham, then a fellow Division Three outfit, in the quarter-final tie of their fabled run to the 1997 semi-final.
And on Saturday they rarely looked likely to end that inglorious sequence of failures with a performance unrecognisable from that which saw Tranmere defeated in the Johnstone Paints Trophy just three days earlier.
Instead, it was back to the shoddy League form that has seen only two points collected from the last 24 on offer as they slumped to their eighth First Round knockout of the last ten seasons.
With six loan players on their books, Chesterfield were allowed to play four of them but were forced into changes by the refusal of Bristol City and Bolton to allow Lee Johnson and Temitope Obadeyi to become Cup-tied.
That had a knock-on effect in that manager John Sheridan was able to name only six substitutes instead of the permitted seven.
After an impeccably-observed minute’s silence ahead of Remembrance Day, it was Torquay who started better and took the lead on 20 minutes.
In truth, they should have been ahead after just 13 minutes when Jonathan Grounds gave the ball away carelessly and Eunan O’Kane presented Danny Stevens with an open goal which he somehow contrived to miss, and by some margin at that.
At the other end Robert Olejnik made a good save to turn a low Danny Whitaker shot round the post, but Stevens made amends for his earlier miss by bundling the ball in at the near post after former Chesterfield loanee Ian Morris set up O’Kane to cross from the right.
Drew Talbot was Chesterfield’s main, and at times only, source of attacking intent as the side failed to display any of the pace or passion normally associated with the FA Cup.
He went close after playing a return pass with Leon Clarke following a great run from his right back position and then forced the keeper into a full stretch dive to prevent his wicked low cross finding Jordan Bowery, who moments earlier had seized on a goalkeeping error to send in a goalbound shot which Oastley managed to hack away from the unguarded net.
Boos and cries of “Rubbish” signalled the crowd’s reaction to Chesterfield’s first-half efforts.
The second period brought an initial improvement with Chesterfield dominating possession and finding a leveller just short of the hour mark.
Craig Westcarr, switching from left wing to right, produced a perfect cross and in-form Bowery timed his leap to send a perfect header inside the post for his fifth goal of a productive eight days.
That should have been the signal for Chesterfield to go on and take the tie. But the Spireites’ lamentable Cup form reasserted itself and with 72 minutes gone, Torquay regained the lead with what was only their second threatening moment of the half.
Morris, who was enjoying his return to the B2net, was again involved. He had gone close to scoring in the first half with a right foot shot that was only inches wide, but this time he played a killer ball through the heart of the Chesterfield defence for bulky centre forward Rene Howe to outpace Dwayne Mattis and take the ball wide of Ole Soderberg before tucking his shot into the net.
Two minutes from time, Chesterfield’s misery was complete when Grounds fouled substitute Taiwo Atieno wide out on the Chesterfield left, fully 35 yards from goal.
Former Sheffield Wednesday trainee Kevin Nicholson stepped up and hit a superb shot straight into the net, beating Soderberg on his near post. Unsurprisingly, boos again greeted the home team as the final whistle brought down the curtain on yet another short-lived FA Cup adventure.
Chesterfield: Soderberg; Talbot, Trotman, Mattis (Smith 79), Grounds; Mendy, Allott, Whitaker, Westcarr: Bowery, Clarke (Clay 82). Unused subs: Fleming, Downes, Ford, Darikwa.
Torquay United: Olejnik; Oastler, Ellis, Saah, Nicholson, Lathrope, Morris (McPhee 74), Mansell, Stevens (Rowe-Turner 82), O’Kane, Howe (Atieno 85). Unused subs: Rice, Robertson, Leadbitter, Macklin.
Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey).
Attendance: 4,332 (inc 255 from Torquay).
Booking: Morris (Torquay), foul on Mendy.