The Proact Stadium witnessed a football match that provided a one-act guide to the volatility of this season’s League One.
On a day when Sheffield United were the only top ten side to win, Paul Cook’s Spireites were well below par, but nevertheless should have had the wherewithal to see off bottom club Leyton Orient, an outfit seemingly in turmoil ahead of the game.
Without ever playing well, twice Chesterfield took the lead against their out-of-form visitors, only to see Orient twice level. And with a point seemingly in the bank, a point that would have seen Spireites rise back into the play-off zone, in the 11th minute of added time, Tommy Lee erred and Dean Cox pounced to stab home from close range to give Fabio Liverani’s side an unexpected victory.
The significant amount of stoppage time came as a result of a assistant referee Alan Clayton picking up an injury and he was replaced by fourth official Mark Astley. That switch, plus the normal time wasting and substitutions, led to eight minutes additional time being signaled; however during that time, Spireites skipper Ian Evatt picked up a head injury that saw him carried off on a stretcher. He did, with help, manage to walk down the tunnel, clearly dazed, to leave Chesterfield a man short as they’d used all three substitutions.
His absence didn’t directly lead to Lee’s error, when he attempted to catch Marvin Bartley’s cross but it squirmed out of his grasp, but an extra body in the mix may have prevented the ball getting that far in the first place; the small margins of League One.
Prior to the late drama, Jay O’Shea had opened the scoring from the penalty spot. The early exchanges had been low key; Chesterfield had been the more accomplished side without reaching any noteworthy heights. Then Jimmy Ryan played a ball through to Caolan Lavery and he quickly turned inwards only to be clipped by O’s skipper Nathan Clarke. A clear penalty which Irishman O’Shea despatched with ease on 19 minutes.
Rather than ease the home nerves, the goal awakened Orient and seemingly made Chesterfield too relaxed and that relaxation soon transferred into carelessness, poor decision-making and lazy passing.
Chris Dagnall, Cox and David Mooney all carved out chances ahead of the first equaliser. Lee’s kick-out was knocked forwards by the Orient midfield and Cox burst into the box but rather than shoot, passed across the six for the unmarked Mooney to tap home unmarked.
The ten minutes from then to the break saw Chesterfield play as badly as at any time under Cook and had they been playing a side with more confidence than Orient, they’d have been behind at the break.
After the restart, Spireites looked more on the ball. Lavery had a couple of decent efforts and Sam Morsy forced a save ahead of the home side taking advantage of a bizarre own goal to retake the lead. A ball across the box fell for Armand Gnanduillet but he was just unable to reach it to shoot but he did gather, turn and cross. The ball went beyond the blue-shirted attackers to Orient full back Elliott Omozusi at the far post and he unexpectedly volleyed into his own net on 55 minutes.
At that point it felt like Spireites, with a penalty and an own goal in the bank, would go on to win it and they reacted well to their gift goal. Gnanduillet bundled the ball into the net, but fouled Alex Cisak in the process, Mark Duffy tried to chip the keeper from inside his own half, but Cisak back tracked enough to gather.
With a home win looking ever more likely, despite Spireites never finding any fluidity, Orient scored from a rare second half raid. Evatt missed the opportunity to clear and Mooney took advantage to run forwards and shoot home from the box-edge for his first brace of the season.
The switch on the line halted the game but in the final phase, Chesterfield enjoyed the bulk of play but failed to test Cisak any more whilst Clarke forced a terrific Lee tip-over save from a header.
Evatt’s injury held up play even more meaning that it was the 101st minute of play that saw Cox win it for the visitors. It just shows you that if you’re not on your game in League One, anyone can beat anyone at any venue in a section that sees just six points separating sixth spot from 18th.
Two successive home defeats mean the trips to Scunthorpe United tomorrow and Rochdale on Saturday are huge games for Spireites, who are struggling to find the right strike force post Eoin Doyle.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 5, Darikwa 6, Evatt 5, Raglan 6, Clucas 6, Duffy 6 (Jones 76), Ryan 6 (Humphreys 78), Morsy 6, O’Shea 7, Lavery 5, Gnanduillet 5 (Harrison 82). Subs: Chapman, Carter, Banks, Dieseruvwe.
Goals: O’Shea 19 (pen), Omozusi og 55.
Orient (4-4-2): Cisak 6, Omozusi 5, Lowry 6, Clarke 6, Sawyer 6, Pritchard 5 (Hedges 67, 6), Vincelot 7, Wright 5 (Bartley 58, 7), Cox 7, Mooney 8 (Batt 84), Dagnall. Subs: Woods, Baudry, Lisbie, McAnuff.
Goals: Mooney 35, 70, Cox 90+11.
Ref: Tim Robinson (Bognor Regis).
Booked: Evatt (Chesterfield).
Attendance: 6,524 (285 from Orient).