CHESTERFIELD’S run of defeats looked set to continue but Jack Lester popped up in the third minute of stoppage time to head home a Craig Westcarr corner to rescue the season’s first point.
The flag-kick was earned when Mark Lillis made a stunning save to deny Jordan Bowery and Spireites’ hopes looked all but over. Earlier, three home efforts were blocked on the line whilst midfielder Andrew Tutte’s 49th minute long range hammer-blow showed Spireites how to find the net.
John Sheridan had selected an unchanged team from the one that battered AFC Wimbledon for half an hour before conceding a sucker punch.
Mark Randall’s scooped ball was controlled well by Bowery and he lifted a shot over keeper Josh Lillis but Ryan Edwards read the situation well and dashed back to clear off the line. Danny Whitaker’s left wing cross was headed out for the games’ first corner, from which Lillis had to punch clear a Terrell Forbes ball.
Ryan Edwards again denied Bowery on the line, this time from a header and from the resulting corner, ex Dale defender Neal Trotman’s header was also blocked on the line by Kevin McIntyre.
Randall fed Marc Richards but Lillis did well to save at his feet as the game continued at a frantic pace, though a lull inevitably followed. Richards had a shot that Lillis gathered and Matty Pearson also hit low for Tommy Lee to save during the slowdown.
McIntyre was lucky to stay on the pitch. Having being booked for a foul on Drew Talbot, within a minute he jumped into the same player, elbow led, flattening the Chesterfield man. But referee Clark, in his first match as a league referee, incredibly took no action.
The first half action ended with Bowery glancing a header well wide from a Richards cross and Whitaker just failing to find Sam Togwell with a cut-back to leave Spireites still looking to open their league scoring account.
Dale started the second half playing keep-ball, frustrating the home side and their patience was rewarded when Tutte unleashed a belter from 30 yards to put the visitors in charge.
Bowery shot at Lillis as the hosts, looking ever more desperate, tried to get back into some sort of rhythm. Whitaker almost played Richards in but the final phase from the home side was generally low-grade.
Randall typified the evening, bursting forwards with great skill but his pass for Richards was far too strong and what was shaping up to be a defence opening move simply floundered.
The visitors earned the second half’s first corner but Chesterfield broke clear. Randall’s ball this time was perfect for Richards, but his pass to Whitaker gave the advancing midfielder little chance to control. Richards was then replaced by talisman Lester.
Bowery again shot on target, again the ball was weak, as Chesterfield’s fans began to show some frustration with their team.
Ashley Grimes shot wide for a Dale team not prepared to take any risks, preferring to keep the ball for as long as possible, and a few moments later he shot wide again, much closer though on that occasion.
Sheridan made a double substitution in a last bid to rescue something from the encounter and Craig Westcarr was just short of a Lester ball in.
Talbot and Westcarr delivered crosses that nearly found their intended target, but nearly continued to be not good enough to rattle the Dale defence.
Chesterfield’s evening looked set to peter out despite a late flurry, Ryan Edwards completed a hat-trick of goal-line clearances from Bowery efforts with 2 minutes remaining, Trotman headed inches wide from a free-kick and Bowery just failed to control when through in front of a crowd 2000 down on the average of the last two seasons ahead of Lester’s late, late show.
CHESTERFIELD (4-4-2): Lee 6, Forbes 7, Trotman 6, Hird 6, Smith 5, Talbot 6, Randall 7 (Westcarr 75), Togwell 7, Whitaker 6 (Clay 75), Richards 5 (Lester 64, 7), Bowery 5. Subs (not used): O’Donnell, Allott, Darikwa, Hazel.
ROCHDALE (4-3-2-1): Lillis 6, Pearson 6, R.Edwards 7, P.Edwards 6, McIntyre 6, Kennedy 8, Cavanagh 7, Tutte 7, Grimes 6, Donnelly 6, Adebola 6 (Putterill 66, 6). Subs: Rafferty, Bennett, Barry-Murphy, Craney, Byrne, Smith.
Goals: Tutte 49 (Rochdale), Lester 90+3 (Chesterfield)
Ref: Richard Clark (Northumberland). Attendance: 4595