Spireites came from behind to give Dean Saunders a winning start as manager against Lee Johnson’s young guns.
The game, played throughout in a fantastic sun-drenched atmosphere, burst into life early on when Conor Wilkinson, 20, grabbed a debut goal and the contest rarely slowed down after that.
Chesterfield had threatened Adam Davies’ goal on several occasions as the half-time break approached but they eventually managed to breakthrough soon after the re-start when Jay O’Shea, who’s expected to sign a contract extension in the very near future, curled in a 15 yarder.
Barnsley had their last bit of resistance knocked-out of them when Sylvan Ebanks-Blake turned smartly to fire in from six yards before he became provider for Sam Morsy to make it two in a minute.
Reds rarely looked like pulling anything back from there on in but Johnson will have seen enough in the first half, particularly from his defence and 17 year old midfielder Danny Crowley to know the team’s not far off being a decent one.
Chesterfield’s shopping is far from done; Saunders’ only debut maker was Ebanks-Blake and he carved out two assists and a goal for an excellent start. Playing up top alongside O’Shea, the star of the show, in a 4-4-2 formation that, when attacking down the flanks, looked fluid and dangerous, but when reverting to a more direct route, the quality of Spireites’ longer ball was often ineffective.
Johnson, whose oldest man on show was 27 year old Lewin Nyatanga, gave four debuts to Marc Roberts, Alfie Mawson, Crowley and Wilkinson. No Mason Holgate in the match day squad added grist to the mill regarding a move to Old Trafford; the manager, unsurprisingly, declined to comment on the situation post-match, as he did regarding the possibility of bringing in Swindon Town’s Michael Smith.
On the bench, the manager included summer signings Nick Townsend, Marley Watkins and Joe Rothwell. James Bree missed out through injury but could be involved tomorrow at Scunthorpe United.
Going in with three at the back and Josh Scowen as right wing-back, Barnsley got off to the prefect start.
Arsenal loanee Crowley, with all the confidence in the World, burst forwards from deep inside his own half to play a ball forwards to Wilkinson. The Bolton Wanderers man still had plenty to do with three of Chesterfield’s back four blocking his route, but a couple of paces and a quick shift to the left saw him outthink his opponents and he calmly slotted the ball beyond Tommy Lee for a quality goal.
With Roberts, 25, making his first ever league start after his move from Halifax, getting on the end of everything Spireites conjured up, he also headed close from a Conor Hourihane free-kick, Reds defence looked solid though as the half wore on, Adam Davies began to be called into action more frequently.
Playing on the counter-attack, Wilkinson and Sam Winnall both had decent chances to extend the lead but a Morsy block and a Lee save negated their efforts. Later in the game Winnall looked to be feeling his hamstring.
The visiting keeper had to make two point blank saves from Sam Hird, one header and one low shot, and he had to repeat that agility to keep out the impressive Gboly Ariyibi who’d danced through the back line to get within three yards of the near post.
Right on half-time Davies tipped over a Dan Gardner long range effort to ensure the visitors turned round in front.
O’Shea’s equaliser came after Gardner’s cross had been gathered by Ebanks-Blake who turned to feed the Irishman to score; last season he didn’t bag his first league goal until January, his more attacking role in this game exposing him to more opportunities.
Johnson withdrew Crowley and Wilkinson, who’d looked the most dangerous men in red and he switched to a 4-4-2 formation but the changes didn’t improve the visitors’ play and, in the manager’s own words, some of his players “went down like dominoes.”
Alfie Mawson’s tight angled header, he did exceptionally well to keep the ball in play, clipped the post but from the rapid home attack that followed, Ebanks-Blake blazed over from five yards after Ariyibi plated up the chance.
Ebanks-Blake made no mistake next time. Gardner’s left-wing corner was nodded down for the twice Championship leading scorer to gather, back to goal, turn and shoot through five defenders and the keeper, a real eye of the needle shot that was rapidly followed by the killer third.
Hird delivered into the box only for sub George Williams to needlessly head the ball which was destined for touch. It fell to Ebanks-Blake who laid it off for skipper Morsy to convert from just outside the box, into the goal via the upright.
From then on it was all about Chesterfield seeing the game out without any scares, and that was duly achieved.
It’s Capital One Cup duty now with Chesterfield making the long trip to Carlisle United tomorrow looking to break a run of eight straight first round defeats whilst Barnsley are at Scunthorpe.
Spireites (4-4-1-1): Lee 6, Talbot 6 (Raglan 77), Evatt 7, Hird 7, Jones 7, Gardner 6, Morsy 7, Banks 6, Ariyibi 8(Dieseruvwe 90+3), O’Shea 9, Ebanks-Blake 8 (Gnanduillet 80). Subs (not used): Cairns, Humphreys, Harrison, Onovwigun.
Reds (3-5-2): Davies 7, Roberts 8, Mawson 7, Nyatanga 7, Scowen 6, Pearson 5, Hourihane 6, Crowley 7 (Williams 57), Smith6 (Rothwell 83), Wilkinson 7 (Watkins 57), Winnall 5. Subs (not used): Townsend, Maris, Digby, Phenix.
ref: Andy Woolmer (Northants)
attendance: 8117 (1975 from Barnsley)