Analysis: Beauty and the Beast Show at the Proact as O'Shea and Evatt inspire Spireites
Chesterfield put on their very own performance of Beauty and the Beast to defeat Bristol Rovers at the Proact.
A beautiful Jay O’Shea free-kick and a commanding physical display from Town’s own defensive beast Ian Evatt helped secure a second 3-2 win inside a week.
Man of the Match Evatt did everything in his power to keep the three points; kicking, heading, blocking every ball, scoring his first home goal in 11 years and even manhandling players when he had to.
O’Shea, so often the architect of the prettiest moments for the Spireites, had already produced a lovely header to make it 2-1 when he scored a sublime second.
That was his sixth goal in six games and although a Rovers onslaught ensued, Danny Wilson’s men battled manfully to hang on.
Wilson went with an unchanged starting XI, but there was a boost with the return to the matchday squad of both Ched Evans and Jon Nolan.
It looked early on like Evans would definitely be needed as Town went behind inside three minutes.
A long free-kick was nodded into the path of Peter Hartley who poked it home.
Chesterfield were rattled and a vital block was needed to keep out Matt Taylor’s effort seconds later.
It took 19 minutes for Town to craft a genuine attack, Reece Mitchell finding O’Shea who brought a save from Keele Roos.
With frustration growing on the stands, it transferred to the pitch, Connor Dimaio booked for a late lunge on Daniel Leadbitter.
It became fractious, Leadbitter himself in the book for a trip on Dion Donohue.
The combative nature of the game seemed to suit Town better – a nice change for a side who have been bullied at times this season – and they responded with a goal.
Rovers failed to deal with a free-kick and when Dimaio hooked goalwards, Evatt swivelled to fire past Roos.
That goal did little to calm the tension, Mitchell seeing yellow for going in late on Lockyer, Leadbitter going down in apparent agony after a Jake Beesley challenge.
Step forward 35-year-old Evatt, thundering into a pair of huge tackles in the space of a minute and turning momentum in his side’s favour.
Shortly after, they led, Gboly Ariyibi’s shot deflecting into the path of Gary Liddle who crossed perfectly for O’Shea to nod home.
Within five minutes of the restart, O’Shea had put Chesterfield firmly in control, bending a wonderful free-kick into the net.
But Rovers attacked in waves, sending ball after ball into the box.
Taylor came close with a back post header that drifted wide and then Town were relieved when Evatt clearly brought down Stuart Sinclair, referee Andy Haines apparently unsighted.
A goal was coming and when Chesterfield’s defenders hesitated for the first time under pressure, Billy Bodin pounced to lash home a fierce volley from 16 yards.
The comeback was not to be completed however, Chesterfield repeatedly repelling attacks, presumably giving themselves headaches from nodding the ball out of their box over and over again.
Skipper Liddle led by example, putting himself directly in harm’s way with a tackle he won against the odds, earning a free-kick at the same time and buying his side a breather.
As the game entered its final seconds of regulation time Town set out their stall, taking the ball into the corner and opting not to send first a free-kick and then a corner into the area.
It caused some consternation among the home support, their anxiety only heightened by the addition of a further five minutes, but crucially, unlike previous occasions this season, there was no last gasp lapse in concentration.
Chesterfield showed a stern resolve to see out the remaining time and make it a six-point week.
A pair of 3-2 victories have eased the tension and put a few smiles on faces at a time when off-field affairs are seemingly still shrouded in mystery and uncertainty.
And with players like Evans, Nolan, Paul McGinn, Dan Jones and Tommy Lee all hoping to make full returns from injury in the upcoming weeks, perhaps a tough year will end with some much needed Chesterfield Christmas cheer.
Chesterfield: Fulton 7, Liddle 7, Donohue 7, Evatt 8, Anderson 7, O’Neil 6, Dimaio 6 (Nolan 70), Ariyibi 6, Mitchell 6, O’Shea 7 (Gardner 85), Beesley 7 (Evans 70). Subs: Dennis, Maguire, German, Allinson.
Bristol Rovers: Roos 6, Leadbitter 6, Brown 6, Hartley 6, Lockyer 6, Lines 6, Clarke 6, Sinclair 7 (Bodin 63), Easter 7 (Montano 63), Gaffney 6 (Harrison 70), Taylor 7. Subs: Puddy, McChrystal, James, Colkett.