Two perfectly-timed goals, one in stoppage time of each half, saw the Spireites shake off a first minute concession to give Paul Cook his first league win.
Liam Cooper, who lost his man, Johnny Mullins, from Peter Leven’s corner, for United’s early opener, made amends deep into first-half stoppage time.
The Hull loanee hammered a rising left-footer from eight yards after Brennan Dickenson’s right-wing corner was knocked down and Sam Hird got a vital prod in ahead of Ryan Clarke. It was the 19-year-old’s first league goal in 22 months and he said: “Brennan whipped it in and I thought the keeper had smothered it but Sam managed to pop it out and I just thought, ‘get it on target’.
“Fortunately I did and it’s gone in. There was a lot of frustration in me for the first goal, I think you could tell that from the celebration. It was good to get on the scoresheet.”
With time running out, Cook was able to do something that few other lower-league managers have in their locker. He brought on a trio of top-drawer players in the form of Marc Richards, Jack Lester and Luis Boa Morte and the effect they had saw Chesterfield’s level of play step up and win it, just!
Hird strode forward and passed low to sub Richards who flicked delicately into the path of Chris Atkinson. He took the ball right before slotting home two minutes into added time. It was the Huddersfield loan man’s fourth goal of the season and all have been vital. His previous two were in 1-0 away wins and his first the critical opener in a 3-1 win against Wycombe.
Oxford boss Chris Wilderwas furious about both goals. “Where did he [the referee] get five minutes from at the end of the first half?” he said.
“ We had two solid penalties not given and for their winner we’d just brought on Adam Chapman and the ref didn’t allow him to get into position so we were still in some state of disarray when they took the throw-in to start the move.”
Oxford had started the game well, very well in fact. Mullins’ header, from a corner that everyone in the ground thought should have been a goal-kick, started a period of visiting domination. Fit-again Tommy Lee had to make a cracking save to keep out Jake Forster-Caskey’s header and James Constable hit high from a gilt-edged position.
Gradually Chesterfield began to get things together. Atkinson forced a good save from Clarke and Tendayi Darikwa whipped one in close but, considering the opening 45 as a whole, the Spireites were fortunate to turn round on level terms.
They began to see more of the ball but few of the chances created, by either side in the second period, tested the keepers. Nathan Smith hit just over before Richards’ assist, coming in his 400th senior appearance, set Chesterfield up for the three points.
Richards said: “I was delighted for Atko and the lads to have got the second goal, it was due.”
Cook summed it up: “It’s a fantastic result. It’s a long week when you don’t win football games.”
Chesterfield (4-5-1): Lee 6, Talbot 7, Cooper 7, Hird 7, Smith 6, Darikwa 6, Atkinson 8, Togwell 6, Dickenson 6 (Lester 74), Whitaker 6 (Boa Morte 82), Boden 6 (Richards 67, 7). Subs (not used): O’Donnell, Clay, Forbes, Ridehalgh.
Oxford (4-4-2): Clarke 6, Whing 6, Mullins 8, Wright 7, Capaldi 6, Forster-Caskey 6 (Rigg 61, 7), Cox 7, Heslop 6 (Pittman 61, 7), Leven 7, Potter 7 (Chapman 90+1), Constable 6. Subs (not used): Brown, Raynes, O’Brien, Marsh.
Bookings: Smith, Cooper (Chesterfield); Cox, Whing (Oxford).