It may have been a fluke goal that decided this contest, but over the course of 90 minutes, the better team won.
After a first half that had seen Notts County denied by Tommy Lee four times, after the break it was one way traffic with Paul Cook’s post-Doyle side dominating.
And it was Doyle’s direct replacement Caolan Lavery that claimed the winner and Magpies defender Haydn Hollis will have no arguments with that.
Keeper Roy Carroll, who had the game of his life in the 1-1 draw at the Proact back in September, had made a couple of top saves before the break, but he had no chance with the 68th minute goal.
Carroll booted the ball clear, recalled skipper Ian Evatt booted it back and Armand Gnanduillet, who earlier had been screeching in pain as he dislocated a couple of fingers, got a boot to the ball to help it along the way.
Hollis, booked for the foul that led to Gnanduillet’s agony, turned to pass the ball back to his keeper but as he got his boot under the ball to lift it back from 30 yards, in rushed the Owls loanee to stick a foot in and his actions saw the ball balloon up and over a stranded Carroll and drop into the net.
As every striker does, Lavery celebrated in style in a bid to alleviate any thought that it may have been an own goal! Even after video evidence, the dubious goal committee is still out.
Lee had to deny Blair Adams and Liam Noble by diving at their feet whilst he blocked shots from Curtis Thompson and Balint Bajner, the latter save fell back to the giant Hungarian who stabbed it wide from just two yards out, clearly County’s best moment.
Carroll himself excelled with a fingertip save from an early angled Lavery shot and he blocked a cracking Jimmy Ryan box-edge volley before half-time.
After the break, Lee was a virtual passenger as Chesterfield took complete control. The only question was ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the visitors would score, though few would have predicted the nature of the goal.
The win represented only Spireites second league win at Meadow Lane in 43 years and it cemented their place in the play-off zone, something they’ll be hoping to consolidate tomorrow at home to fourth-placed Preston North End, Kevin Davies and all. Cook was naturally delighted with the result on a heavy pitch which influenced his team selection, Evatt and Gnanduillet’s returns in particular. The manager, who signed up to 2017 last week said: “I thought we played well in terms of the other side of the game. It’s foreign for Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan to kick balls on and play round corners but they were good today in terms of that.
“We looked like we always carried a threat, Jay O’Shea was excellent; he came off the line well, Sam Clucas too. All the lads have to play well when you come to these places, Notts County have had a good season even though they’re having a difficult time now, we all go through that.
“We don’t rest on our laurels, we move on to Tuesday night and Preston which is going to be a really difficult game.”
The victory shows that Spireites can win whilst playing an uglier game. The pitch, shared with Nottingham Rugby Union, had led to enough slips and trips to alert the Health & Safety Executive but after the cold spell and snow, more and more pitches in League One are far from carpets, so this style of play will no doubt be repeated many times as Spireites look to maintain their lofty perch.
Notts Co (4-4-1-1): Carroll 6, Dumbuya 7, Mullins 7, Hollis 6, Adams 8, Hayhurst 7, Smith 5 (Jones 65, 5), Noble 6 (Thomas 76), C.Thompson 7, Woolery 5, Bajner 6 (G.Thompson 73). Subs (not used): Pilkington, White, Daniels, Edwards.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 7, Darikwa 7, Hird 8, Evatt 7, Jones 6, O’Shea 8, Morsy 6, Ryan 6, Clucas 7, Gnanduillet 6 (Dieseruvwe 86), Lavery 7 (Harrison 70, 7). Subs (not used): Chapman, Raglan, Duffy, Dieseruvwe, Banks.
Goal: Lavery 68
Ref: Keith Stroud (Dorset)
Bookings: Darikwa, Hird (Chesterfield), Hollis, C.Thompson (Notts)
Attendance: 6649 (1838 from Chesterfield)