Match analysis: Oldham Athletic 0 Chesterfield 0 - Spireites edge closer

Armand Gnanduillet blazes Chesterfield's best chance over the bar
Armand Gnanduillet blazes Chesterfield's best chance over the bar
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Spireites moved a step closer to achieving the League One play-offs with a point from a goalless draw that won’t feature heavily in any end of season highlights package.

Indeed the most exciting part of the afternoon came when sixth spot rivals Rochdale fell behind at Gillingham and Keith Hill’s side’s subsequent loss leaves Chesterfield eight points clear of the only remaining team that can overhaul them and they have just nine points to play for.

Three of Dale’s potential points are on offer tomorrow night when they host relegation threatened Leyton Orient, so if the Eastenders return home with any reward, Spireites will both need to extend their seasons. Dale received two red cards at Priestfield so will be significantly weakened for the match.

“I’ll be there,” said Paul Cook, who jokingly added “In the away end!”

Whilst the sun shone at Boundary Park, there was a stiff breeze and an awful pitch which made any potential replication of Spireites’ previous performance, the 6-0 demolition of Colchester United, all but impossible.

Chesterfield’s pretty play, which has won so many plaudits during this exceptional season, was clearly not going to be a deliverable and after struggling through the early stages of the match without managing to get any foothold in it, Cook made the decision to change things, bringing on Armand Gnanduillet for Dan Gardner and switching the style to a more direct 4-4-2.

The change led to three on-target efforts before the break, but teenage keeper Joel Coleman didn’t need to raid his top drawer to keep the efforts whilst in the opening 45 opposite number Tommy Lee had to stretch to the maximum to keep out former Blade Connor Brown and show great agility to block an effort from Rhys Murphy.

The second half somehow started with even less attacking prowess than witnessed earlier and the low grade entertainment continued until former Spireite Dean Holden made a couple of final fifteen substitutions and those changes ironically led to the visitors stepping things up.

With Cook tinkering with his strike force – Sam Clucas and Gary Roberts swapped roles – Chesterfield created some decent chances late on.

Roberts burst through but the only reward he managed was a corner which saw Ian Evatt get an effort in that the keeper spilled but his defence spared his blushes with a clearance.

Clucas had the two closest calls of the game in the final exchanges.

A flying back heel from a Roberts pass hit the foot of the post and Gnanduillet blazed the rebound high and wide, then right at the end Clucas hammered on target from 20 yards but the keeper flew right to tip over the shot and the corner was repelled.

Skipper Sam Morsy held nothing back about the state of the pitch. He said: “Just look at the pitch, it’s an absolute disgrace, something’s happened here because it’s a disgrace, that may be why they get good results here on the real bad pitch.

“But the lads battled well and if you can’t win a game, take a point, it keeps the momentum going.

“It’s not going to happen for our attack minded players every week but a great point on the board in my opinion.

“We had a few chances at the end, we always thought we would and we never looked like conceding, a good point and we’re all happy.”

His manager’s view confirmed early fears about the surface: “The good thing for us as a team and for our supporters was the performance we had on Tuesday night, but today it was apparent from the first ball back to Charlie Raglan that it was never going to be a game of football.

“It wasn’t a good spectacle, if our supporters were going to come on the pitch if we scored, they’d still be in the stands on Tuesday or Wednesday, there never looked like there was going to be a goal in the game.

“But it’s a good point for us, Rochdale will now have to win all three to catch us, that’s a great compliment to our players.

“Hopefully the result will go our way on Tuesday, if not it’s in our hands and we’ll have a great game with a full house next weekend against Bristol City.”

Sam Hird was rested due to a minor thigh strain, but he’s likely to be available for the Robins’ game on Saturday, as Chesterfield can all but mathematically prepare for at least two additional games, for the first time ever in tier three.