REPORT: Chesterfield 3-1 Northampton Town
Chesterfield handed Northampton Town their first league defeat since December 2015 as Connor Wilkinson bagged a brace in Chesterfield's 3-1 victory.
The on-loan Bolton striker’s double and Kristian Dennis’ first Football League goal ended a four-game winless streak and snapped the Cobblers’ 31-game unbeaten run.
Chesterfield had a bright start, winning a corner inside 30 seconds and forcing Adam Smith to punch clear from his six-yard box.
Northampton’s first attack brought a penalty shout, Alex Revell going down under a challenge in the box, referee Robert Jones unmoved as play went on, the hosts almost giving away the ball in their own area before conceding a corner.
The Spireites took the lead in the seventh minute, Jon Nolan rushing forward and playing a through ball for the offside Kristian Dennis, who left it to Connor Wilkinson and he slid home a cool finish, off the right hand post.
Although the Cobblers found their feet again after the goal and put together some dangerous attacking play, it was Chesterfield who came agonisingly close to the next goal - Ariyibi skipping into the box and seeing his cross deflected past Smith, only for Zander Diamond to acrobatically clear from under his own bar.
Dennis could see his name on the scoresheet when Paul McGinn cut the ball back from the right, but the striker kicked fresh air and Wilkinson was dispossessed when he tried to turn 10 yards out.
Matt Taylor had already tried his luck from distance once, with no success, when he picked up the ball again 35 yards out - his second effort was a thunderbolt that required a very good save from Ryan Fulton.
The final seconds of the first half were nervy for the Spireites, a corner sparking some head tennis inside the six yard box before an offside flag brought relief for the home fans.
The second half got off to the perfect start for Town, and it was Wilkinson on target again, getting the ball 25 yards out and shaping to shoot, pausing and then firing into the right hand side of the net via a deflection to make it 2-0.
Northampton reminded their hosts it was still very much a contest, forging their first chance of the second half and a good one at that, Paul Anderson’s deep cross headed just past the post by Alex Revell.
The next time they attacked with menace, they pulled a goal back, a deep cross from the left saw Dion Donohue struggling and Paul Anderson volleyed it past Fulton’s despairing dive.
Chesterfield were rocking as the Cobblers showed urgency and their fans roared them on, but with 20 minutes remaining the home side took the pressure off in the best way, O’Shea sliding the ball inside to Donohue whose shot was touched home by Dennis.
Wilson withdrew Wilkinson straight after the goal, Dan Gardner taking the place of the striker, who left to a standing ovation.
The Spireites, one of the bests disciplined teams in the division, picked up two cautions in five minutes towards the end of the half, Nolan for a late tackle on Taylor and Dennis for throwing the ball away.
Ricky German made his professional debut in the 88th minute, replacing Dennis who was also given a rousing reception as he departed.
And the final whistle was greeted with a huge cheer by the home fans, celebrating not only a big win, but the best Chesterfield performance of the 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, Dennis 70; P. Anderson 62
Yellows: Nolan 77, Dennis 82; McCourt 44
Attendance: 5,910 (736 away)