If it’s entertainment you want Chesterfield are the team to watch.
Paul Cook’s Spireites were robbed of a well-deserved point deep into stoppage time after yet another tremendous 90 minutes of edge-of-the-seat football.
Following consecutive humdingers against Scunthorpe United, Preston North End, Doncaster Rovers, Notts County and Sheffield United, five games that spawned 23 goals, the Proact side delivered yet another memorable encounter, albeit one that ended in the most disappointing way.
Twice man of the moment Eoin Doyle had equalised City goals. The Irishman now has an incredible tally of 15 for the season and his ‘right place at the right time’ habit was clear for all to see. It was also clear to see why Steve Cotterill’s Robins are unbeaten in 18 league games. They can play, they can mix it and they can score. They are qualities every side strives for but few achieve all three.
The Spireites came out of the traps in the most impressive fashion, camping in City’s half, playing neat if occasionally ragged football. City couldn’t get anywhere near Tommy Lee’s goal. However, after nine minutes they did break out of their own territory to grab the lead out of the blue.
Lee came for a cross but was unable to gather cleanly, the ball was half-cleared and then played wide left to Joe Bryan. He drove a low cross into the six where Spireites skipper Ian Evatt was patrolling. The big man stuck a leg out but, rather than block the cross, it diverted in to the top corner to open the scoring in a bizarre and, at that stage, undeserved manner.
That gave City a huge lift and it was their turn to boss proceedings. Aaron Wilbraham, with eight goals this season, Doyle’s nearest challenger in the League One goal stakes, was using his size and skills effectively, regularly causing significant problems for Evatt and his fellow defenders.
Then, as with City’s goal, the next one broke the rules of dominance. Chesterfield broke free for the first time in quarter of an hour. Gary Roberts showed a neat touch and squeezed a short ball through to Doyle who escaped his marker, Derrick Williams, only for the City man to concede a penalty.
Variety from the spot seems to be Doyle’s want, making any research carried out by keeper Frank Fielding all but redundant. As he moved right, the 12-yarder was blasted low and centrally to level up the game.
Bryan clipped the post as the game ebbed and flowed with plenty of passion, some committed tackles and plenty of errors, forced and unforced.
It was breathless stuff but somehow half-time arrived with no further goal action, although Spireites efficacy did force a change of shape by City who moved from a back three to a four when Corey Smith went off with a knock.
The status quo wasn’t to last long. Within a minute of the restart City won a corner and Williams atoned for his penalty-box error with a cracking far-post header.
It was a real ‘jackets off’ encounter with both sides delivering everything they’d got. If it was a boxing match, it would have been top of the bill.
It came as no surprise when the next goal arrived just short of the hour, though it was never certain who’d bag it as both sides were finding themselves in scoring positions with virtually every attack.
City came close when Luke Freeman hit the bar but it was, inevitably, Doyle who hit the target, poaching with aplomb after great work down the right between Roberts and Tendayi Darikwa.
Another goal was inevitable. Fielding and Lee both made excellent saves, and stretching every sinew was the norm for everyone in a defensive position as blocks and block-tackles were witnessed time and again.
However the manner in which the final goal came was a hammer blow to the brave visitors. Mark Little, once a Spireite and City’s normal right-sided attacking outlet, managed a rare sortie into the box to create the opening for sub Wes Burns to fire home in the third minute of the four extras signalled.
Neither side deserved to lose, and if the Spireites play anything like this well in the majority of their remaining matches they’ll end the season pretty close to where City are.