Chesterfield never looked like making the weekend headline for the wrong reasons at Conference side Braintree Town.
Indeed a hugely impressive, professional performance from Spireites, with three goals in each half, led to the League One side notching up their biggest ever win in the FA Cup competition proper; only wins in qualifying rounds have exceeded this showing.
Eoin Doyle started and ended the scoring to end his five game goalless spell. The Irishman has an impressive 17 goals to his name now.
Jay O’Shea, Sam Clucas and Gary Roberts all added goals before left-back Dan Jones whipped in a cross that clipped the leg of sub Remi Clerima to fly low past Nick Hamann to make it 5-0.
The goal went down as an own goal at the time but the former Owls defender was adamant it was his, a first goal since January 2013, saying afterwards: “Definitely my goal, no doubts, never an own goal!”
Doyle, in stoppage time at the end, latched on to a perfect straight through ball from Dan Gardner to convert from 20 yards, the only one of Spireites six that didn’t come from the flanks.
Paul Cook made four changes to the side that drew at home to Yeovil Town last weekend. The injured Georg Margreitter and ineligible Oscar Gobern, who’s unlikely to feature again for Spireites, we’re enforced whilst Ollie Banks and Dan Gardner switched together bench.
Skipper Ian Evatt, fit again Gary Roberts plus recalled Jay O’Shea and Jimmy Ryan came in to a 4-4-2 formation, Sam Clucas was pushed up alongside Eoin Doyle.
Cook said an hour before kick-off that he’d switched to 4-4-2 as having seen Braintree in their midweek home defeat to Grimsby Town, they looked vulnerable when wide players got behind the back four, and that game plan was fully justified with five goals coming from such positions.
Two years ago Cook’s first full week at Chesterfield ended with a 6-1 FA Cup 1st Round win over Hartlepool United; since then, he’s led his side to a Championship, a Wembley final and a 30 place move up the league echelons. Only Bournemouth and Steve Evans’ Millers have made greater strides in those 24 months.
The manager, delighted with his side’s performance, said: “I’m good at getting through the first round, it’s the second that causes us problems!
Today was all about the players and today they were excellent. Braintree don’t give many goals away, they’re a very organised side but our lads were terrific, I’m very pleased for them all.
“Today was a day where we could get two up front, against the likes of MK Dons and Swindon you can’t surrender the middle of the park because they’ll kill you but, with respect to Braintree, we had the opportunity to get two up front today and with the quality of Clucas and Doyle, it worked.”
Despite the one sided scoreline, Chesterfield keeper Tommy Lee had to play his part. He made four terrific saves, admittedly all after Spireites had gained the initiative, but Sean Marks and sub Jordan Cox in particular will always remember just how good a keeper Lee is, denying them both from point blank range.
That said, Spireites had two more chalked off for offside, O’Shea and Clucas both finishing with aplomb but waved flags curtailed their further joy.
Braintree came out strong in both halves but within five minutes of each start, Chesterfield had wrested control and only rarely looked like losing their position of strength.
Before Doyle’s opener, Roberts was looking unplayable but was tripped up by the soggy pitch twice when in great positions. But once Doyle tapped in Clucas’s cross on 20, it was all but game over.
Jones fed O’Shea for the second, a great 15 yard shot on the turn, whilst Tendayi Darikwa notched up his first assist in stoppage time at the end of the first half, putting the ball on a plate for the impressive Clucas.
With the contest all but over, Alan Devonshire’s hosts again started well but they were unable to maintain any pressure due to Spireites totally professional approach.
Roberts grabbed a deserved goal when Darikwa’s run saw the ball sent high. The wide man opted against a volley, but his 20 yard hammer on the half-volley was a thing of beauty.
Jones got into the action with his cross that pinged in the net before Doyle last gasp long ranger that sent the travelling fans home in raptures.
Defender Charlie Raglan alongside skipper Ian Evatt looked solid at the back when pressured and his confidence will have grown enormously with a second clean sheet in two games whilst O’Shea and Roberts signalled their returns to the side with performances of the highest order.
Braintree (4-4-2): Hamann 5, Peters 5, Sowunmi 4 (Clerima 62, 5), Massey 5, Habergham 5, Isaac 6, Davis 6, Mulley 6, Brundle 5 (Strutton 46), Marks 4 (Cox 46, 7), Akinola 7. Subs (not used): Pentney, Sparkes, Paine, Walker
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 7, Darikwa 7, Evatt 8, Raglan 7, Jones 7 (Humphreys 78), O’Shea 7 (Gardner 78), Morsy 7, Ryan 7, Roberts 8 (Boco 78), Clucas 8, Doyle 7. Subs (not used): Wright, Ariyibi, Banks
Goals: Doyle 20, 90+3, O’Shea 30, Clucas 45+1, Roberts 53, Jones 75
Ref: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire)
Booked: Evatt (Chesterfield)