Oxford United 0 Chesterfield 1

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The Spireites picked up their first win double of the season as Marc Richards ended his goalscoring drought at in-form Oxford United.

It marked Chesterfield’s first competitive win at the Kassam Stadium with the Spireites’ last triumph in the City of the Dreaming Spires coming over 32 years ago.

With less than five minutes on the clock, right-back Richard Brindley slotted a perfect angled low ball in for Richards, who was a few yards inside the box. With defender Michael Raynes seeming to be more interested in claiming offside, the striker, goalless in nine games, hit low and into the far corner to register his first away goal since November.

Leading into the game, the Spireites had conceded just three in seven, so Richards’ success then put pressure on the defence to carry on its new-found miserly status, and they managed to do just that in some style.

Despite losing key left-back Nathan Smith to an ankle injury with less than half an hour played, the rearguard, led by a faultless performance from Liam Cooper, who put in a defensive shift as impressive as I can remember, were magnificent.

Conor Townsend switched back to cover for Smith and, despite a few early hiccoughs, he filled in his favoured position like a veteran, with Brindley on the opposite side, buoyed by his assist, also looking somewhat more experienced than someone in only his fourth ever league start.

Alongside Cooper, Neal Trotman continued his resurgence in form, though one miscued leap for a cross-field ball let in ex-Spireite Deane Smalley for a gilt-edged chance. That led to Tommy Lee showing his prowess, as he rapidly narrowed the angle to block the shot with his legs.

Smalley could have picked up more than a yellow card when he bundled over Smith, clearly suffering from injury and waiting for physio Jamie Hewitt to attend. The striker’s actions could well have exacerbated the defender’s injury while it did lead to a momentary fracas involving several other players.

United dominated the first half but their myriad of crosses either found their targets who were then profligate in front of goal, or they travelled through the masses of yellow and blue shirts untroubled by contact. But, most likely, Cooper was there to hoof them or head them clear.

Lee’s block on Smalley’s shot meant the Spireites went in to the break having not conceded a first-half goal since Wycombe on January 5, 11 games ago, and that was in stoppage time!

Chesterfield’s overall play improved no end after the break. Sam Hird found Jay O’Shea whose close control, mazy run ended with a shot going just wide while sub Danny Whitaker had a goal ruled out for offside against provider Richards.

Lee’s low save denied sub Tom Craddock, who’d scored four goals in a 5-0 win over Accrington Stanley back in October, Paul Cook’s penultimate game in charge there before his move to the Proact.

James Constable hit high as United pressed forwards late on but the reliable rearguard earned yet more plaudits and, more importantly, earned three points. Tomorrow’s game at Torquay could give the Spireites a huge boost, or a massive hit.

Cook commented: “I’m made up for Marc. Footballers get criticism when things don’t go well, that’s just the nature of the game we’re in. There’s no hiding place in football. Today Marc scored, we’ve won, got a clean sheet and there’s been a lot of very good performances. It’s a happy today, but tomorrow will be a different day.”

“We’ll dust ourselves down, the next game is always the biggest one. For a football club like ours, we must go to Torquay and win the game. If we can go there and do that then it sets us up for a great game on Saturday.”

Armand Gnanduillet will miss the trip and possibly the next couple of games as well after breaking down in training at the end of last week.