Caretaker boss Tommy Wright did his chances of impressing the Chesterfield board no harm at all with a lively performance at top-of-the-table Gillingham.
Gills had notched up three wins from three League Two games ahead of the Spireites’ visit to Priestfield on the 25th anniversary of a 10-0 home win in this fixture. But Wright’s team, minus new Premier Leaguer Jordan Bowery and ankle victim Nathan Smith, scored first and looked the most likely winners as the game went on.
Craig Westcarr volleyed home from close range early on to give the visitors the lead but the gap between the sides lasted just eight minutes. Danny Kedwell was adjudged to have scored from a Myles Weston left-wing cross, though the Chesterfield contingent all felt that keeper Tommy Lee had scooped the ball clear before it had chance to cross the line.
Westcarr, whose goal was his first of the season, was sent off in the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of the game for a second yellow card. After being carded for an 81st-minute foul, he was flagged offside and went on to shoot, claiming he hadn’t heard the whistle.
Wright, who’ll be without the Spireites’ Wembley hero for tomorrow’s home game with Oldham Athletic (7pm) as they look to defend the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, said: “I think Westy was saying he never heard the whistle; sometimes you’ve got to give the player the benefit of the doubt.”
The opener came after Tommy Lee had made a fine save to deny namesake Charlie Lee as Martin Allen’s side, with left winger Weston making a strong start, began well.
With just Marc Richards up front - and he had his best game to date in Spireites colours - Chesterfield made light of the Gills’ start and Terrell Forbes’ right-wing cross picked out the scorer perfectly.
The hosts had the ball in the net, but Kedwell had clearly fouled Lee, although the burly striker didn’t have to wait long to level, heading in, or not, from a couple of yards.
Goal provider Forbes showed his defensive capabilities, blocking a Deon Burton shot after a Sam Hird error. Throughout, Forbes had a solid game.
Kedwell blocked a Danny Whitaker goal-bound shot and Liam Ridehalgh forced another excellent save while Adam Birchall’s across the face ball just eluded Burton and Sam Togwell almost headed an own goal.
Ridehalgh and Whitaker both had stoppage-time shots saved.
Wright concluded: “It’s been a hectic week and I’m pleased for the players because they worked hard for me in training. you get caught up in that.”
Gillingham (4-4-2): Nelson 8, Fish 5, Flanagan 6, Barrett 7, Martin 6, Whelpdale 6 (Allen 62, 7), Lee 7, Montrose 4 (Payne 31, 7), Weston 7, Burton 7, Kedwell 7 (Birchall 78). Subs (not used): Forecast, Strevens, Frampton, Davies.
Chesterfield (4-5-1): Lee 6, Forbes 8, Hird 6, Trotman 6, Ridehalgh 7, Talbot 7, Allott 6 (Clay 72) (Randall 78), Whitaker 7, Togwell 7, Westcarr 7, Richards 7 (Lester 89). Subs (not used): O’Donnell, Boden, Hazel, Darikwa.
Ref: Pat Miller (Beds).
Bookings: Hird, Ridehalgh (Chesterfield); Burton (Gillingham).
Sending off: Westcarr (Chesterfield).