DEANE Smalley’s brilliant brace stretched Chesterfield’s lead to six points at the top of League Two after a deserved victory at Gillingham.
Smalley, on-loan from Oldham, scored in each half as John Sheridan’s side took full advantage of their game in hand over Wycombe Wanderers to stretch their impressive unbeaten run to seven games.
The league leaders have now won five of their last seven matches.
Sheridan’s men rode their luck at times and were indebted to two fine saves from goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
But it was the visitors who started brightly and created the first chance of the game in the sixth minute but Danny Whitaker struck a tame left-foot shot wide of the right upright.
A minute later, the hosts caught the Spireites on the counter-attack and Curtis Weston rifled a fierce right foot strike inches wide.
Sheridan’s side took the lead with a lovely flowing move down the right flank which resulted in an inch-perfect delivery from right-back Javan Vidal being powerfully headed into the top left-hand corner by Smalley.
But the Gills could have equalised but for two brilliant saves from Lee.
Cody McDonald unleashed a ferocious left-foot shot on the quarter hour mark, but Lee pulled off a wonderful one-handed block, at full stretch to his left, to turn the ball past his left post.
And in the same minute Lee starred again, this time to turn a Adebayo Akinfenwa header past the same post.
Danny Jackman, the provider for Akinfenwa’s earlier effort, fired wide of the far post as the hosts kept pushing for a leveller.
Whitaker whipped in a deft cross from the left and Mattis headed harmlessly wide of the left post, but the visitors were struggling to create any clearcut openings.
At the other end, McDonald headed straight at Lee from a Jackman cross. Four minutes before the break, striker Craig Davies let rip with a 25-yard thunderbolt, but his dipping effort was only just over.
McDonald wasted a glorious chance to level matters in the 43rd minute, but having taken advantage of a lapse of concentration from left-back Gregor Robertson, the striker dragged his right-foot shot wide.
The Spireites came hard out of the blocks immediately after the restart and came within a whisker of doubling their advantage when midfielder Ian Morris fired over from 25 yards.
But the second goal wasn’t long in coming as Smalley latched on to a superb pass from Vidal, beat the offside trap and coolly rounded Gills’ keeper Julian and slotted into an empty net.
It looked like Smalley might get his hat-trick three minutes later, but his close-range shot was superbly blocked in the Gills’ area.
With 10 minutes to go Lee produced a fine point-blank save to deny Akinfenwa and frustrate Andy Hessenthaler’s team further.
Davies fired wide of the right post three minutes later as the Spireites nearly made it 3-0.
Gillingham (4-4-2): Julian 6; Fuller 6, Gowling 6, Lawrence 6, Nutter 6; Spiller 6 (S Payne 80), Maher 6, Jackman 6 (J Payne 72), Weston 6 (Rooney 63, 5); Akinkenwa 6, McDonald 7. Subs: Richards, Bentley, Cronin, Martin
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee 8; Vidal 7, Ford 7, Mattis 7, Robertson 7; Talbot 7, Allott 7, Morris 7, Whitaker 7; Smalley 9 (Lester 86), Davies 7 (Bowery 90). Subs: Redmond, Griffiths, Breckin, Lowry, Niven.
Referee: Darren Drysdale.
Bookings: Maher (Gillingham).