MATCH ANALYSIS: Chesterfield produce something special to end Northampton's streak
It was going to take something special to end Northampton Town's 31-game unbeaten streak and Chesterfield produced just that.
The Spireites started the game like a side possessed and at times rode their luck - but it was luck of their own creation.
A brace from on-loan Bolton striker Connor Wilkinson on an impressive Proact debut and a first Football League goal for the terrier-like Kristian Dennis put the game beyond an ordinary looking Cobblers side.
The duo were a good foil for each other, Dennis chasing defenders and making them rush clearances, Wilkinson holding the ball up skillfully and allowing his strike partner to run in behind to pull defenders out of position.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Chesterfield’s performance was the way they dealt with the pressure when it came in the second half, Northampton pressing with intent if not quality after Paul Anderson’s goal.
And the three points were claimed without top goalscorer Ched Evans, the Welshman missing out with a heel injury.
At the back, Ryan Fulton was commanding, haring off his line to punch away corners and making one blinding save in the first half from Matty Taylor’s long range thunderbolt.
By that stage, Chesterfield were already a goal ahead and well worth the lead, Northampton with only a rejected penalty appeal to shout about in the opening minutes, Alex Revell apparently felled by Sam Hird in the area.
Jay O’Shea rushed forward in the seventh minute and played a through ball for the offside Dennis, the striker stopping dead and allowing Wilkinson to run onto the pass and finish off the inside of the right hand post.
Although the Cobblers found their feet again soon after the goal, their attacks were thwarted by Tom Anderson and Hird who headed and kicked everything that came their way.
In front of them, Gary Liddle and Jon Nolan worked tirelessly to snuff out any threat, Nolan the glue that kept the side together, linking defence with attack and getting Chesterfield going again.
The home side came agonisingly close to a second, Gboly Ariyibi seeing a cross deflected past keeper Adam Smith and cleared from under the bar by Zander Diamond.
Ariyibi, at his best for most of the afternoon, then fed Paul McGinn down the right, the Scot’s pull-back missed completely by Dennis before Wilkinson was dispossessed 10 yards out.
The final seconds of the half were nervy for Town, but some desperate defending and an offside flag brought relief and the half-time whistle.
If their start to the first half was good, the way they came out after the break was excellent.
Ariyibi went up the right, passed inside to Wilkinson and after the big striker had twice feinted a shot, he curled the ball into the net via a deflection.
A spot of luck perhaps, but they got themselves into a position to benefit from it.
The in-form Revell had just one opportunity in the game and headed it wide, Fulton appearing to have it covered anyway.
But the Cobblers did make a fight of it, a deep cross from the left met by Anderson, getting the better of Donohue in a tussle to volley past the despairing dive of the Chesterfield keeper.
There was a storm to weather and Danny Wilson’s men did just that, resolutely, before countering with pace and landing the final, killer blow.
Donohue got on his bike and was found by Jay O’Shea, the left-back sweeping the ball goalwards, Dennis getting a toe on it to make sure.
The pair both claimed it but referee Robert Jones sided with Dennis, the 26-year-old over the moon to score having run himself ragged all afternoon.
Both goalscorers were withdrawn by Wilson in the latter stages, the home fans rising to their feet to salute the frontmen, before greeting the final whistle with a rousing ovation for arguably the best team performance of the season to date.
And despite being winless in four before Saturday’s result, the Spireites are up into the top 10 in League One, two points off the play-off spots in what will undoubtedly be another tight division this season.
Chesterfield FC: Fulton 8, McGinn 7, Donohue 7, Hird 8, T. Anderson 8, Liddle 8, Nolan 8, Ariyibi 8, O’Shea 7, Dennis 8 (German 88), WILKINSON 8 (Gardner 74). Subs: Evatt, Mitchell, Dimaio, Graham, Parkin.
Northampton Town: Smith 7, Moloney 6, Buchanan 6, P. Anderson 7, Diamond 7, Revell 6, Gorre 6 (Hoskins 46), McCourt 6 (O’Toole 80), Beautyman 6 (Richards 61), Nyatanga 6, Taylor 6. Subs: Cornell, Zakuani, Hooper, Potter.
Referee: Mr Robert Jones. Assistants: Mr Alan Clayton, Mr Gary Hilton.
Goalscorers: Wilkinson 7, 49, Donohue 70; P. Anderson 62
Yellows: Nolan 77, Dennis 82; McCourt 44
Attendance: 5,910 (736 away)