CHESTERFIELD won their second consecutive league away game with loan midfielder Chris Atkinson on the scoresheet again, as he was at Aldershot Town.
The victory means the Proact side are just one point off sixth spot in what’s become a ridiculously tight mid-table.
The Huddersfield Town asset got onto the end of a peach of a cross by Tendayi Darikwa in the 32nd minute to head the game’s only goal. It was the 20-year-old’s third goal in nine appearances and his loan ends today.
Caretaker manager Tommy Wright indicated he’d be talking to the Terriers to gauge their feeling but the player himself was fairly confident he would be staying for another month.
Darikwa, also just 20, had a terrific game, as did all of the team in what was perhaps the most complete team performance of the season. The Nottingham-born wide man had a great chance to wrap the game up five minutes from time but he saw keeper Artur Krysiak block his shot from a one-on-one chance.
While Chesterfield were the better of the sides for the majority of the match, they had to work extremely hard in the final few minutes to maintain their lead. Richard O’Donnell had enjoyed a fairly quiet game until sub Guillem Bauza forced him to fingertip over from a box-edge shot.
In injury time Drew Talbot had to block a Scot Bennett header on the line and then O’Donnell had to fling himself to his left to block a close-range rocket from Liam Sercombe, but a late concession would have been a real body-blow for the visitors.
Wright had to go into the game without Marc Richards. The fit-again striker, out for a month, had a stiff hamstring after Friday’s training and the caretaker boss refused to risk one of his prize assets. He’s most likely to return for Saturday’s match against Barnet rather than tomorrow’s first ever visit of Fleetwood Town.
Nathan Smith was on the bench, and he came on for around 20 minutes in a team that saw Neal Trotman and Jack Lester on the bench after starting in the defeat at home to Dagenham & Redbridge. In came Craig Clay for his first league start in two years as well as his ex-youth team colleague, Darikwa.
With Sam Hird flawless at the back from the off and Sam Togwell breaking down everything City had in their locker, wide men Darikwa and Luis Boa Morte were able to play with some flair.
Arron Davies shot wide, sliding in from John O’Flynn’s cross for City’s best moment of the first half, coming not long ahead of Atkinson’s decisive header.
City changed shape after the break and Bauza was denied by a fantastic Hird challenge. The Spaniard added some strength to the home attack but Terrell Forbes and Hird just stepped up their game to keep them well at bay.
Mark Randall was introduced for th Spireites and he forced a fine Krysiak save from his first involvement and the keeper did well to keep a Craig Westcarr shot out ahead of the final flurries.
Wright said: “I was very pleased. We had a few close calls at the end but we played well; we counter-attacked well. We needed a second goal really because they came on strong at the end but their keeper made a few fantastic saves. Credit to O’Donnell at the end, he made a couple of good saves.”
He said of Darikwa: “He gave their left-back a torrid time and he was a great outlet for us. His cross for the goal was fantastic, but everyone was good.”
Exeter (4-4-2): Krysiak 8, Tully 6, Coles 6, Bennett 7, Moore-Taylor 5, Sercombe 6, Oakley 5, Doherty 5 (Amankwaah 54, 7), Davies 5 (Frear 64, 6), Cureton 7 (Bauza 46, 7), O’Flynn 6. Subs (not used): Evans, Woodman, Kedhane, Dawson.
Chesterfield (4-5-1): O’Donnell 7, Talbot 8, Hird 9, Forbes 7, Ridehalgh 7, Darikwa 8, Atkinson 7 (Smith 72), Togwell 8, Clay 7 (Randall 65, 6), Boa Morte 7, Westcarr 7 (Lester 78). Subs (not used): Wilson, Trotman, Whitaker, Evans.
Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey).
Booking: Darikwa (Chesterfield).