Spireites match report: Chesterfield 1 Accrington 0

Tendayi Darikwa scores for Chesterfield
Tendayi Darikwa scores for Chesterfield
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A solid if unspectacular win over Accrington Stanley extended Chesterfield’s unbeaten run and confirmed their best ever start to a league campaign.

Tendayi Darikwa’s solitary strike rewrote the history books just after the interval when he was first to pounce after Marc Richards’s curling effort smacked the woodwork.

The Spireites failed to put the game beyond doubt despite their dominance and almost paid the penalty late on when red shirts flooded forward in hope of gaining an unlikely draw.

Eoin Doyle could have wrapped the game up in injury time when his delicate chip beat Marcus Bettinelli in Accrington’s goal but his effort struck the crossbar.

The ball fell perfectly for Sam Togwell, with an open goal to aim at, but his header was inadvertently blocked by fellow substitute Armand Gnanduillet just yards from the line.

In a comical moment, Chesterfield could afford to smile at the final whistle with three points secured to maintain their two-point lead at the top of League Two.

It looks as though it may be a very different season for the former club of Paul Cook and Leam Richardson, who remain rooted to the foot of the division with just one point to their name.

Former England international James Beattie, in his first managerial post, declared himself happy with his side’s performance despite the result and long spells without the ball.

Cook made just one change to the side that beat Portsmouth as Darikwa replaced the injured Nathan Smith (ankle) for his first league start of the campaign. It meant a slight re-shuffle in the pack with Ritchie Humphreys slotting in at left-back.

The home faithful turned out in good numbers but they will have to wait a little longer to get a glimpse of club captain Ian Evatt, who was an unused substitute.

Accrington had not scored in their last five matches in all competitions and their problems deepened further when former Sheffield United striker Danny Webber was replaced before half-time.

In a game where Chesterfield were expected to see a lot of the ball, they didn’t disappoint and found their stride immediately from the kick-off.

The Spireites almost took the lead moments later when Humphreys’ deep cross from the left had Bettinelli back-peddling at speed. The Accrington keeper pushed the ball out before clattering into the post, but reacted quickest to smother the loose ball inside his six-yard box.

Chesterfield looked to have set up camp in their opposing half but were given a brief scare when Accrington broke at speed. Piero Mingoia attracted two blue shirts and fed Webber whose first-time shot took a slight deflection and Lee had to be on his toes to tip the ball around his near post.

Chesterfield continued to see plenty of the ball but found it difficult to break down the league’s bottom side.

Sam Hird went close to breaking the deadlock when he found a yard of space from Jimmy Ryan’s left-footed cross. The defender brought the ball down expertly on his chest before turning on a sixpence to volley the ball a whisker wide of Bettinelli’s right-hand post.

Accrington were slowly finding their feet and stemmed the Spireites tide with periods of composed possession. A flowing move down the right from the visitors saw Michael Richardson link up with Webber, who returned the favour to set the midfielder racing towards goal. Drew Talbot ushered Richardson wide and his resulting cross was cleared at the near post by Hird.

Richards would probably feel as though he should have tested the keeper minutes later, when Liam Cooper’s misdirected header from Humphreys’ right-wing cross presented the striker with a sight of goal. But the ball fell at an awkward height and he couldn’t keep his volley down from 10 yards.

Ryan flashed a shot well wide of the mark before O’Shea blazed over the bar.

The home support had barely got back to their seats after half-time when Chesterfield took the lead through Darikwa - his second in as many matches.

The ball broke for Richards who twisted one way then the next and curled a right-footed shot that smacked the upright with Bettinelli well beaten. Darikwa was first to react and slotted the ball beyond the keeper’s despairing dive and a covering defender into the back of the net.

Hird, on his 26th birthday, stole a yard to meet Roberts’ resulting flag-kick but he bundled the ball just wide.

Cook’s side looked more assured after the break and the introduction of Gnanduillet saw them go more direct in their play with two up top.

And they nearly doubled their advantage when Talbot met Roberts’ outswinging corner, but the stand-in skipper’s fierce header was cleared off the line by George Miller.

Accrington, however, began to find one or two pockets of space and, when Talbot lost out to Hatfield on half way, Connor Mahoney’s cross just evaded two red shirts running in at speed.

Home hearts were in mouths when Beattie’s men had a late claim for a penalty waved away after a goalmouth scramble, before Mahoney skipped past two challenges and fired a crisp shot towards goal that Lee held.

Gnanduillet headed Roberts’ inswinging corner over the bar as the clock approached 90 before Doyle hit the bar in a tense finale in front of 6,588 fans.