There was a time this season when an early home goal in a Spireites match at the B2net meant the floodgates would open and John Sheridan’s men would coast to victory.
However, for the second Saturday on the trot, a Chesterfield goal soon after kick-off was the precursor to falling behind and having to rely on a late leveller to bag a single point.
This time it was Deane Smalley with the early goal. Making his first start in front of his own supporters, he headed in after a long throw from Mark Allott that had been helped on its way by Ian Breckin.
And it was Smalley again, with his seventh goal in just over four weeks after 86 minutes, who earned the draw, taking advantage of a slip by full-back Ben Herd to angle the ball home to maintain Chesterfield’s ten-game unbeaten record.
Between Smalley’s brace, Shots’ Tim Sills also scored two, his first double in the Football League. It was his first goal for the club since scoring against Canvey Island five years ago, having moved back to the Recreation Ground last month. Both of his second-half goals were a result of poor Chesterfield defending.
The first came after an Alex Rodman free-kick, initially blocked by Smalley, wasn’t cleared and Sills hit in from six yards.
The visitors took the lead when a Rodman cross was blocked by Allott. Referee Anthony Taylor adjudged it had hit his arm and the deliverer of the ball stepped up to take the resulting penalty.
Tommy Lee, who’d made plenty of decent interventions as Aldershot ran the second half, blocked Rodman’s spot-kick and looked to have done enough to protect his goal. But Sills reacted quicker than Lee’s defenders and got in amongst the confusion to hit the ball high to ensure the Spireites had to come from behind for the third time in eight days.
Chesterfield’s late goal came after keeper Jamie Young, wearing a hastily purchased goalkeeper’s jersey after his kitman had forgotten to pack his normal shirt, tipped over a Danny Whitaker free-kick. The subsequent corner wasn’t properly cleared and Smalley eventually took advantage to take him to a career best seasonal tally.
Sheridan had surprised everyone by selecting Jack Lester to start when what was described as a hamstring injury looked set to keep him out, but post-match it was revealed to have been a sciatic problem that had cleared up.
But the most surprising line-up change came amongst the officials. With Champions League and World Cup Final assistant referee Mike Mullarkey set to run the line, it came as a shock when he was ‘subbed’ by Sian Massey. It was her first game since Andy Gray and Richard Keys lost their jobs on Sky TV following comments made about her abilities.
She only had to flag once in the entire game for offside with her only tricky moment coming when Dwayne Mattis cleared off the line with some opponents feeling it could have crossed over, though their half-hearted claims looked to be more in hope than expectation.
Assistant manager Tommy Wright made it clear that the home dressing room wasn’t a place to be celebrating after the game.
He said: “We were poor in the second half, which was our poorest half of the season. We started quite brightly and then faded away and we were fortunate to get a point. We told the players in no uncertain terms what we thought. You can’t just cruise through games, you can’t just expect to turn up and win games.
“After our first goal we were just too comfortable and some of the players are too comfortable; they think you can win games without putting the effort in. We told them that and no-one will be in the team if they just want to cruise through games.”
There were no reports of any fresh injuries, though Drew Talbot took a knock that isn’t expected to keep him out of the Spireites’ next game, at Burton Albion on Friday evening. That game could see the place of Burton-born Craig Davies, without a goal since New Year’s Day, under threat for the first time in his Chesterfield career.