Chesterfield came out second best at Southend, losing 3-0.
In what Chesterfield manager Paul Cook described as the game of the day in League Two, it was their opponents, Southend United, who had the better of the opening exchanges.
The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession in the middle of the pitch, which had cut up prior to kick-off in the warm-up, but fashioned just the one chance of note when Atkinson turned on the ball and fed O’Neill on the overlap.
The right back, on loan at Roots Hall from Burnley, advanced to the byline and crossed to the back post in search of Corr, who had the beating of Talbot in the air, but he directed a header wide of the mark from within the six yard box.
The Spireites grew into the game with Ryan and Morsy, who was booked in the second minute for what looked to be an innocuous foul on halfway, getting to grips with the Southend midfielders. Goalmouth action was few and far between.
The visitors carved out a chance when Ryan nipped in and played a quick one-two with Richards. The ball took an awkward bounce, however, and didn’t come down in time for the midfielder whose left footed effort was comfortable for Bentley, in the Southend goal, diving low to his left.
Southend responded when Atkinson headed wide after a goalmouth scramble.
The hosts didn’t have too much longer to wait for the breakthrough, which came when O’Neill sent a pinpoint cross field pass from right to left for Straker, who trapped the ball and beat Talbot, before he centred for HURST to tap in to an open net at the back post.
The goal rocked Chesterfield and they nearly fell further behind when Corr was hauled down by Evatt on the edge of the penalty area with the striker shaped to shoot. Corr dusted himself down and nearly benefited from good fortune when his curling effort clipped the top of the wall and deceived Lee who could only stand and watch.
The Spireites keeper breathed a huge sigh of relief as the ball narrowly went wide of his right hand post.
Chesterfield had a strong claim for a penalty just before the break when Roberts advanced into the penalty area, played a one-two with Richards, and looked to shoot, only for the winger to go to ground under the challenge of Leonard. The man in the middle, Robert Madley, however, remained unmoved.In the last action of a scrappy first half, O’Shea had sight of goal and unleashed a shot which was always rising.
Chesterfield were caught cold from the restart by Timlin who got to the byline and crossed but there was no-one there to tap in and Smith cleared with ease.
Spireites responded immediately. O’Shea broke from midfield and rolled the ball back for Talbot, whose cross was looking for Banks, but Bentley was quick off the mark to collect. The visitors were getting some joy down the right hand side and when Talbot looped a hopeful ball forward, Prosser slipped to allow Richards in. The striker steadied himself but couldn’t find a white shirt with the cross and the defender recovered to clear.
Ryan went into the referee’s notebook with a late challenge on Leonard who had got away from the midfielder with blue shirts flooding forward. Southend looked dangerous on the break and when Hurst cut inside Talbot he had the majority of the goal to aim at but dragged his shot wide of Lee’s near post.
Then two goals in two minutes almost sealed the game for Southend just before the hour through Leonard and then Corr.
Southend’s skipper, LEONARD, won the ball in midfield, played a neat one-two with Timlin and had the pace to get away from the Chesterfield defenders before he slotted the ball under the onrushing Lee.
And before the home faithful could catch their breath, it was three when CORR latched on to a long ball and looped the ball over the advancing Lee and in to the net.
Chesterfield looked to change things and brought on both Gnanduillet and Gardner. They had a golden opportunity to score when Hurst went through the back of Roberts inside the area, and this time the referee pointed to the spot. Richards picked the ball up but Bentley saved his well-struck penalty. Then Prosser cleared off of the line from Doyle.