A more than decent second 45 gave Chesterfield a well-deserved win against the division’s in-form side.
John Ward’s Bristol Rovers went into the game as the highest League Two scorers in 2013 and averaging almost two points a game in their manager’s 14 match spell in charge.
But despite a slow and frustrating hump-ball start from Spireites, Paul Cook’s side eventually got their act together.
They played some neat football, bagging two superb individual goals after a run of five games where just one goal had been witnessed.
Irishman Jay O’Shea got the ball rolling with an unstoppable box-edge shot after he picked the ball up from a poor clearance.
He said after the game that assistant manager Tommy Wright had been instructing him to shoot more during the half-time interval. The advice paid of well.
The game was all but secured 20 minutes later when maverick French striker Armand Gnanduillet picked up the ball on the left, between box and touchline.
He was marshalled by visiting skipper Tom Parkes, who seemed bemused by the big man feigning to go one way, and going the other. The Pirates defender was marooned, allowing the frontman to shoot low at the near post and beat Steve Mildenhall, who will be wondering how he didn’t block the shot.
It will be a major surprise if both strikes aren’t on the club’s goal-of-the-season shortlist.
The game, played on the 16th anniversary of Chesterfield’s FA Cup quarter-final victory over Wrexham, began with Cook having taken what must have been a tough decision, dropping marquee summer striker signing Marc Richards to the bench. The ex-Port Vale man has been out of sorts of late, and Jack Lester was given a rare start alongside Gnanduillet.
Drew Talbot was also absent through illness, so Richard Brindley was recalled to the right back position having been withdrawn from that role less than half an hour into his previous start in the Aldershot game last month.
The 19-year-old re-took his chance and didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon.
Long ball frustration was the early order of the day. Chesterfield were disjointed, ineffective and frustrating on the eye.
They had to rely on Tommy Lee to fingertip a 30-yard Eliot Richards drive onto the post to prevent Rovers gaining the early initiative.
Sam Hird, Sam Togwell and Gnanduillet all saw Mildenhall deal easily with shots as the hosts slowly started to get a grip of the task, but few would argue that a goalless first half was a realistic reflection of the lacklustre fare on display.
Whatever was said in the home dressing room at the break worked. Chesterfield reappeared with more verve and vigour.
Nathan Smith and Gnanduillet had efforts saved ahead of O’Shea’s 53rd minute crackerjack.
The goal seemed to lift the weight of Spireites shoulders and Gnanduillet had a header hacked away by Mark McChrystal and corners started to come at regular intervals for the hosts. Lester headed within a whisker from one of the many flag-kicks.
Spireites introduced Tendayi Darikwa for Lester and within seconds the lead was more secure thanks to the Ivory Coast Under-21’s individual skills.
Both keepers had a top save each to make, Lee dived to deny Richards and Mildenhall tipped over from O’Shea in stoppage time as Chesterfield maintained a third clean sheet in the last four games.
Cook said of his team’s start: “It wasn’t slow, it was slower. At time like that you wish you could have electrical charges on the pitch and a button to press to liven the players up.”
But he added in a more complimentary manner: “We’ve scored two goals, we’re delighted with the win and we move on to Oxford. There are nine games to go, a lot of football to be played and we’re still in the chase.”
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 6, Brindley 7, Trotman 7, Cooper 7, Smith 7, O’Shea 7, Hird 6, Togwell 8, Townsend 6 (Whitaker 85), Lester 6 (Darikwa 72), Gnanduillet 7 (Richards 80). Subs not used: Barrington, Clark, Randall, Henshall.
Bristol Rovers (4-4-1-1): Mildenhall 6, Smith 6, Parkes 6, McChrystal 7, Brown 5, Anyinsah 5 (Broghammer HT, 5), O’Toole 8, Woodards 5 (Hitchcock 54, 5), Norburn 7, Richards 7, Brunt 5 (Tounkara 72). Subs (not used): Gough, McDonald, Patterson, Harrison.