Chesterfield’s disappointing time in the FA Cup continued as they lost the lead and the match at Tranmere Rovers, the highest-placed team in the second round.
The run to the semi-final in 1997 apart, the Spireites have an appalling record in the world’s oldest competition. Indeed, the club’s not won an away tie in the second round in 45 years and, 1997 excepted, they’ve not been in the fourth round since 1954.
Paul Cook, a respected player at Tranmere at the time Chesterfield were in the last four, was given a great reception by the home supporters, and he saw his side take a lead.
Ahead of the opener, visiting keeper Tommy Lee had to make a couple of sharp saves to deny striker Cole Stockton while a Marc Richards shot that was too high was the Spireites’ best early chance.
The goal action began when Luis Boa Morte, who had a running battle with both Andy Robinson and referee Andrew Madley throughout the contest, delivered a corner. The Portuguese’s kick from the right was a poor one but ex-Miller Danny Harrison made a complete hash of his near-post duties and the ball skidded to Liam Cooper who blasted it high into the net from very close range.
One-time Blades loanee Michael O’Halloran, the Bolton striker, who’d been linked with Chesterfield a couple of months ago, forced a third fine save from Lee ahead of a desperately disappointing concession by the Spireites.
Stockton was booked for a foul in the Chesterfield half but Sam Hird’s free-kick was badly placed and that was followed by a weak head away from Cooper. Harrison nicked the ball and atoned for his earlier error with a skilful turn and lay-off for Stockton who drilled the ball low from 20 yards to level.
The half-time score just about mirrored the play and it was also fairly level after the break, but Ronnie Moore’s Rovers took the lead with a goal made by O’Halloran. He teased Drew Talbot on the edge of the box, darting forwards, backwards and then forwards again to cross for Adam McGurk, who had a simple task of converting from six yards.
The play ebbed and flowed as time ran down. An O’Halloran header was scooped away by Lee when it looked to have crossed the line, and the keeper had to save late on from Joe Thompson. Chesterfield, 4-4-2 since they went behind, saw a Cooper rocket miss by a whisker and a Mark Randall pass elude Richards for what could have been a leveller.
Robinson and Boa Morte continued their spat at the final whistle with some mass handbags by the dugouts,
Cook said: “We’ve got a big 26 games in the league now,” he said. “Our support was terrific. We lacked a bit of quality.”
Tranmere (4-4-2): fon Williams 6, Holmes 7, Goodison 7, Gibson 7, Bakayogo 6, Robinson 6 (Thompson 77), Harrison 6, Wallace (Power 11, 6), McGurk 6, O’Halloran 8, Stockton 7. Subs (not used): Mooney, Black, Taylor, Kay, Daniels.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1): Lee 7, Talbot 6, Cooper 8, Hird 6, Smith 7, Clay 6 (Randall 62, 6), Togwell 6, Whitaker 6 (Lester 62, 6), Darikwa 7, Boa Morte 6, Richards 6. Subs (not used): O’Donnell, Forbes, Townsend, Boden, Wafula.
Ref: Andy Madley (W Yorks).
Bookings: Darikwa, Hird, Boa Morte (Chesterfield); fon Williams, Goodison, Stockton, Gibson (Tranmere).