Dan Gardner hit two goals, his first ever Football League brace, to give Chesterfield a priceless win at bottom-of-the-table Crewe Alexandra.
The former Crewe man, 25, hit in first time starter Rai Simons’ cross from the left of the six to establish an early lead and he restored the lead after the break, hitting Liam O’Neil’s ball across the box on the volley which bounced over keeper Ben Garratt.
Between Gardner’s goals Crewe, without a home win this season, had levelled with their first attempt on goal. Ryan Colclough’s run and pass in was knocked back to skipper David Fox to drive a low shot beyond Tommy Lee.
From having had no shots in 36 minutes, the goal gave Alex confidence and by the break they’d created seven more openings, Lee though had to save just one as George Cooper burst through; the rebound was stabbed wide by Brad Inman.
From the time Spireites’ second went in, the game really opened up with both sides showing promise on the break, but the visitors, desperate to hold on after losing late points three times in September, prevented any more decent chances from Steve Davis’s team whilst Jay O’Shea came closest to extending the lead after biding his time to open up the defence and shoot within a whisker.
Dean Saunders made a brave selection that could easily have backfired; onto the bench went Sylvan Ebank-Blake, Sam Hird and Ollie Banks to be replaced by much less experienced players. Defender Charlie Raglan started a league game for only the 17th time whilst for teenager Simons and Mani Dieseruvwe, 20, this was their first ever start at this level. Despite their youth, Spireites’ starting 11 had an average age of 25, three years above that of Alex.
Dieseruvwe was the focal point for Spireites’ attacks and he fared well, using his strength to his advantage whilst O’Shea, Gardner and Simons all moved around with intelligence and pace, though they would clearly benefit from more time together on the park.
Of the scorer, Saunders said: “I’ve been encouraging him to get in more and score more goals and if he does that he’ll go up to the next league, he’s a really good footballer but I’m proud of all of them today because they knew what was at stake, we couldn’t afford not to get any points and the league’s that tight that we’re now just three points off the top six which means a couple more wins and you’re in there.”
And the manager, whose son Callum came on for a late Crewe cameo, was pragmatic when it came to the result: “Getting the three points was all that mattered really; we’d been drifting away from the top six. That’s three away games we’ve won, which is great, and we should have won every game, Coventry the only one that you could argue that they deserved to win. We also held on to the lead, which I’m really pleased about.”
The League can be forgotten about briefly now as Spireites visit Rochdale tomorrow in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Keith Hill’s Dale lost 3-1 at home to Bradford City at the weekend.
Crewe: Garratt 6, Turton 7, Ray 6, Nugent 7, Kingsley 6, Cooper 6 (Saunders 82), King 6, Fox 6, Colclough 8, Inman 7, Haber 6. Subs (not used): Nizic, Guthrie, Atkinson, Dalla Valle, Wilson, Ainley.
Goal: Fox 36
Chesterfield: Lee 6, O’Neil 6, Raglan 7, Evatt 8, Jones 6, Gardner 7, Herd 6 (Hird 71), Morsy 7, O’Shea 7, Dieseruvwe 7 (Gnanduillet 89), Simons 7 (Talbot 77). Subs (not used): Cairns, Ebanks-Blake, Banks, Orrell.
Goals: Gardner 8, 57
Ref: Ross Joyce (Teeside)
Booked: Herd, Evatt. O’Neil (Chesterfield)
Attendance: 4,053 (464 from Chesterfield)