Craig Westcarr wrote himself into Wembley history as Chesterfield lifted a season of league struggle with victory in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final.
Westcarr was close at hand as a Swindon own goal set the Spireites on their way and then scored the second as League One beat League Two at the famous venue.
John Sheridan beat Paolo Di Canio in the touchline battle of two magical ex-players on a gorgeous spring day in front of the seventh highest crowd ever to watch the Spireites.
The attendance of 49,602 was just 38 below the crowd that gathered at Old Trafford for Chesterfield’s 1997 FA Cup semi-final draw with Middlesbrough.
Jack Lester’s injury was the only black spot on a day when Swindon’s Oliver Risser opened the scoring in his own goal.
The Spireites struck a minute into the second half. Having been pegged back for much of the opening 45, Jordan Bowery delivered an angled shot that Wes Foderingham blocked. Bowery got a foot to the loose ball and it looped to Alex Mendy.
The Frenchman controlled with aplomb and hit a low cross in that was helped into his own net by Namibian International Risser, wearing number 13, with Westcarr in close attention.
Right at the end of the game Westcarr rolled the ball in to atone for an earlier miss and confirm that it was the blue ribbons that needed attaching to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy that was lifted by hero Lester.
Boss Sheridan made two changes to the starting 11 from the side that lost to Huddersfield Town in midweek. Cup-tied Neal Trotman was predictably replaced by Simon Ford while, also as expected, Lester came in, with Westcarr switching to the bench. Talisman Lester was made captain for the day. The manager’s strategy was clear with his sub selections, which contained no defenders!
Di Canio gave a debut to Barnsley loanee Jay McEveley at the back in an attack-minded team led by winger Matt Ritchie and striker Paul Benson. Ex-Owl John Bostock, also signed on loan this week, was on the Robins’ bench, his last senior appearance being in Wednesday’s loss at the B2net Stadium. South Normanton lad Lee Holmes delivered the game’s first cross but it was too deep and Drew Talbot followed that up with a much better ball in that saw Lester head into the arms of Foderingham.
Lester had the ball in the net in the second phase from a corner after Ford had hit the bar but an offside flag ruled out the skipper’s effort as the early stages saw plenty of positive action from both sides. The decision looked very marginal.
Joe Devera headed over from the second of back-to-back corners and Holmes curled a box-edger just wide as both sides showed their attacking intentions. A few stray passes also added to the wonderful unpredictability of the contest.
Mendy, a final winner in the Czech League Cup, released from 25 yards and his effort sailed just over.
Holmes’ influence was growing and a shot from him ricocheted between Josh Thompson and Tommy Lee to fly out for a corner. Swindon were notching up the flag-kicks, but the defence remained solid.
Ahead of the break, Spireites lost Lester to injury, something that could hamper their league aspirations. Westcarr came on and Mark Allott took the armband.
Benson’s nod back for Alan Connell was excellent but the striker’s spectacular close-range shot went badly wrong as the Robins parked themselves in the Spireites’ half in the lead-up to half-time.
Before many had re-taken their seats after the break, Chesterfield were ahead.
Lee had to make a solid catch from a Ritchie cross as the League Two leaders,
stunned by their concession, looked to hit back quickly.
Westcarr pulled a shot wide and Mendy delivered an overhead just over as Chesterfield - like Swindon, in their first final of this competition - looked to exploit their opponents’ need to push forwards.
Bostock came on for Swindon
and immediately should have seen his side two down.
Bowery headed on and Alan McCormack slipped to let in Westcarr but he shot wide from a glorious one-on-one opportunity.
Holmes under-hit a shot at Lee after some excellent Swindon interplay but the final moment belonged to Westcarr as ran alone
to slot the ball beyond Foderingham to officially start the celebrations.
There’ll be no open-top bus celebration around the Town, though. On Wednesday evening it’s back to life at the foot of League One and a vital match at Bramall Lane.
With Lester set to miss out, it’ll be a tough ask, but at least for now confidence is sky high.