Victory for the Spireites ensured they didn’t equal an unwanted club record.
Seventeen league games had passed since Carlisle United were beaten on September 17. But headers from Jack Lester and Josh Thompson meant that John Sheridan’s side triumphed in their first visit to the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
Thompson lined up with Neal Trotman in the heart of the back four, the 12th such combination this season, but one that looked like it may feature many more times in the run-in.
Chesterfield conceded their usual sloppy goal between their two own efforts, meaning there’s not been a clean sheet in 24 games in all competitions, but the workrate and endeavour in evidence was enough to earn a deserved victory.
Jimmy Juan picked up a calf injury in the JPT win over Oldham while Simon Ford’s dodgy knee also kept him out and they were replaced by Mark Allott and Thompson, with Liam Ridehalgh in place of Danny Whitaker.
The borrowed full-back was asked to handle a role on the left of midfield and he responded with two assists and a solid show in an area that’s often proved to be an Achilles heel this season.
Ridehalgh’s first meaningful contribution came early. A partially cleared corner found the Huddersfield man on the right side when he received a pass from James Hurst. A moment to assess the situation was followed by a pinpoint cross on to the head of Lester who converted from 12 yards.
It was the veteran’s first away goal since he bagged a brace at former club Grimsby Town in April 2010, breaking a run of 20 consecutive home goals for the master striker.
David Davis forced a save from former Spireites keeper Ben Williams ahead of the U’s leveller. Allot hit a pass a little too hard and Thompson’s outstretched leg failed to bring the ball to heel. Karl Duguid gathered and immediately passed to Steven Gillespie who, after a couple of strides, shot low from the box-edge to beat Tommy Lee. “We just gave the ball away too cheaply,” rued Sheridan.
Just ahead of the break, Chesterfield regained their lead. Thompson had headed just wide from a corner a little earlier but the big defender, a Celtic asset, rose highest to convert Ridehalgh’s right-touchline free-kick.
Thompson and Trotman’s presence in the side and Ridehalgh’s deliveries look to have unlocked a potential for goals. Set-plays have not spawned enough goals this season. The powerful central defender’s acquisition may also help to stem the flow of concessions from opponents’ free-kicks and corners.
The introduction of debutant Gavin Massey for the hosts caused problems for Spireites. Shortly before the final whistle, after Gillespie and Ridehalgh had both had decent chances, Massey’s pinpoint ball to ex-Miller Ian Henderson gave him a fantastic opportunity to deny the Spireites victory. But his left- footed shot was appalling and the chance was spurned.
Sheridan said: “Obviously we’re delighted with the three points. We’ve worked really hard and scored two great goals. We’ve had good opportunities to score more.”
The win leaves the team five points from safety.
Colchester (4-4-1-1): Williams 6, Wilson 6, Eastman 5, Okuonghae 6, White 6, Duguid 7, Bond 5 (Massey 54, 8), James 6, Wordsworth 6, Henderson 6, Gillespie 7. Subs (not used): Heath, O’Toole, Izzet, Coker.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 7, Hurst 7, Trotman 6, Thompson 7, Robertson 6, Talbot 6, Allott 6, Davis 7, Ridehalgh 8, Boden 6 (Bowery 86), Lester 7. Subs (not used): Fleming, Whitaker, Hazel, Smith.
Goals: Gillespie 32 (Colchester); Lester 6, Thompson 44 (Chesterfield).
Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorks).