MATCH REPORT: O'Shea double as Spireites win again
Chesterfield withstood a second half onslaught to beat Bristol Rovers 3-2 and make it a six-point week.
The Spireites had a Jay O’Shea double and Ian Evatt’s goal to thank, along with a resolute backs-to-the-wall defensive display late on.
Evatt in particular was influential, looking at times like a man possessed, tackling anything that moved within his reach.
Alongside the result, there was more good news late on for Town with comebacks from injury for both Ched Evans and Jon Nolan.
The afternoon didn’t get off to the best start, however, for an unchanged Chesterfield starting XI.
Their visitors took a third minute lead when a long free-kick was nodded down into the path of Peter Hartley and the centre-half poked the ball past Ryan Fulton.
Things could have got immediately worse for Town had Matt Taylor’s shot from inside the box not been blocked, seconds after the opener.
And away fans were celebrating again, albeit prematurely, before the game was even 10 minutes old, two Spireites players beaten in the air in the box before Fulton plucked the ball out of the air.
It took 19 minutes for Chesterfield to mount a serious attack on the Rovers goal, a quick break instigated by Reece Mitchell ending in a 25-yard Jay O’Shea effort that Kelle Roos kept out comfortably.
An inability to retain possession led to growing frustration for the hosts, evidenced by Connor Dimaio’s late lunge on Daniel Leadbitter, earning yellow.
Leadbitter followed him into the book almost instantly, tripping Dion Donohue who was looking to break down the flank.
Chesterfield levelled out of the blue when Rovers failed to properly clear an O’Shea free-kick and Dimaio turned the ball goalwards, Evatt in the perfect position to hook home the equaliser.
The game began to take on a fractious feel, Mitchell seeing yellow for what the referee deemed to be a late foul on Lockyer, Leadbitter going down in apparent agony after a Jake Beesley challenge.
If Chesterfield were in need of leadership, Evatt was doing everything he could to supply it, thundering into a pair of huge tackles in the space of a minute.
And it seemed to do the trick, Ariyibi’s shot from the edge of the box deflecting into the path of Gary Liddle who crossed perfectly for O’Shea to thump home a fine header.
Danny Wilson’s men made a much better start to the second half than the first, doubling their lead with some O’Shea magic.
On 50 minutes the Irishman lined up a 25-yard free-kick, won by Beesley, and curled it precisely around the wall and into the corner of the net.
At the other end Rovers reminded their hosts that it wasn’t over as a contest, the ball finding its way to the feet of Taylor 16 yards out, the striker twisting to make space and bringing a save from Fulton with a low effort.
Taylor came even closer just before the hour mark, getting up high at the back post to meet a cross, nodding just the wrong side of the post.
With Rovers firmly on top, Chesterfield needed a bit of luck to keep their two goal lead, referee Andy Haines somehow missing Evatt’s foul on Stuart Sinclair in the area - sparking fury from the men in yellow. In the aftermath Chris Lines was booked for dissent and the Spireites breathed a sigh of relief.
Perhaps recognising that his side needed an outlet, Wilson sent on both Ched Evans and Jon Nolan with 20 minutes remaining, withdrawing both Beesley and Dimaio.
But before either replacement could make an impact, Rovers had the goal their second half dominance deserved, hesitation in the area from Town’s defenders allowing Billy Bodin to lash home a full blooded volley to reduce the deficit.
The final 10 minutes were played almost exclusively in Chesterfield’s defensive third of the pitch, the ball put into their box repeatedly only to be thumped, headed or scrambled clear time and time again.
They not only saw out the regulation time but five additional minutes before referee Haines brought relief and delight with his final whistle.
Chesterfield: Fulton, Liddle, Donohue, Evatt, Anderson, O’Neil, Dimaio (Nolan 70), Ariyibi, Mitchell, O’Shea (Gardner 85), Beesley (Evans 70). Subs: Dennis, Maguire, German, Allinson.
Bristol Rovers: Roos, Leadbitter, Brown, Hartley, Lockyer, Lines, Clarke, Sinclair (Bodin 63), Easter (Montano 63), Gaffney (Harrison 70), Taylor. Subs: Puddy, McChrystal, James, Colkett.
Referee: Mr Andy Haines. Assistants: Mr Declan Ford, Mr Matthew Jones.
Goalscorers: Evatt 28, O’Shea 37, 50; Hartley 3, Bodin 76
Yellows: Dimaio 25, Mitchell 30; Leadbitter 26, Lockyer 45, Lines 63
Attendance: 6,330 (934 away).