MATCH REPORT: Chesterfield FC 1 Coventry City 0
Gardner’s goal, 13 minutes before the end of regulation time, lifted the gloom around the Proact and handed caretaker boss Ritchie Humphreys a win in what is likely to be his only League One game in charge.
It is thought Gary Caldwell, favourite to get the managerial vacancy, was in the ground to witness the game, which snapped a five game winless and goalless streak.
It was a cagey affair throughout, neither side taking much in the way of risks, but Chesterfield were rewarded for a good spell of second half pressure with that all important goal, before withstanding a late Coventry onslaught.
The tension was heightened by an 11 minutes of time added on following a lengthy delay caused by a serious head injury to Tom Anderson.
Town’s on loan Burney defender took a bang to the head and was eventually stretchered from the pitch to a waiting ambulance.
Chesterfield remain in the relegation zone after the win, but only on goal difference, with a four point cushion now over bottom side Coventry.
The visitors almost gifted Town an early opener, a back pass putting keeper Lee Burge under pressure and although he turned into the path of Kristian Dennis, he was able to block the striker’s effort.
There was an early sight of goal for Dan Gardner who sliced a half volley well wide from just outside the box, then Jay O’Shea wildly overhit a cross with Kristian Dennis threatening at the near post.
In a bright opening quarter of an hour, Coventry caused problems with a corner that was allowed to bounce and bobble in the Chesterfield box, then George Thomas shot straight at Ryan Fulton from a difficult angle.
The two sides cancelled each other out for a spell, Chesterfield guilty of being wasteful in possession, Coventry playing some nice stuff going forward but lacking an end product.
Ian Evatt watched in dismay as his backward header from O’Shea’s free-kick drifted just over the top, the big defender rising higher than anyone else in the box.
Ched Evans began to come into the game, getting himself free to run into space in the box and receive a corner, blasting well over however.
There was a let off for Chesterfield when Kevin Foley drilled in a cross-cum-shot that was heading for the corner flag before Stuart Beavon cleverly flicked out a boot and turned it just past the post.
And at the other end, with three minutes left in the half, O’Shea sent in another decent free-kick, Sam Hird stealing a march on his marker and glancing a header goalwards, Burge saving easily.
But the final action of the half belonged to the Sky Blues, Beavon getting away from the attentions of the home defence and shooting wide of the target.
Chesterfield set off well in the second half but despite being on top for 10 minutes were unable to fashion a chance from their possession.
Coventry, however, got the ball in the net from their first attack, a blocked shot from Beavon finding its way to Marcus Tudgay who poked home, only for the flag to go up for offside.
There were more worrying scenes for the Spireites on the hour mark however, Anderson falling face down with a head injury after a collison.
The centre-half was treated on the pitch before being strapped to a stretcher and carried straight out of the ground.
Gboly Ariyibi was brought on by Humphreys, with Hird dropping back into the centre of defence.
Coventry settled better after the long delay and forged a chance almost instantly, Fulton having to get down well to save from Ryan Haynes.
And the best move of the match followed, the Sky Blues playing the ball quickly to break before Thomas darted into the box and drilled across goal and past the far post.
They were made to rue those missed chances on 77 minutes when, after a spell of pressure, Chesterfield worked the ball across to O’Shea, he teed up Gardner on the edge of the box and the winger thumped a wonderful effort past Burge and into the net.
Fulton was responsible for ensuring Town kept their lead just a minute later, beating out a shot from Beavon who had danced into a great position just inside the box.
Coventry looked a lot more urgent after the goal, but subsequently left themselves exposed and Town very nearly capitalised - a quick break saw Dennis release Ariyibi but he dallied in the box and saw his shot blocked, Dion Donohue’s follow up thunderbolt just over the top.
The game could have been done and dusted before 90 minutes, Evans’ crossing superbly to the back post for the leaping Ariyibi who saw his header clear the bar.
And Gardner fizzed a shot wide from that same central position where he had earlier opened the scoring.
The Sky Blues were given a lift when the fourth official’s board went up to signal 11 minutes of time added on and they almost only needed one, the ball dropping to Beavon at the back post where he hammered it high and wide.
That was the last real opportunity for Coventry however, and Chesterfield themselves had a late chance to double their lead, Evans stinging Burge’s hands from a tight angle.
Nicholas Kinseley’s whistle brought to an end the game and a pretty dreadful run of form for Chesterfield, who are expected to have a new manager by the time they play again.
Chesterfield: Fulton, O’Neil, Donohue, Evatt, Anderson (Ariyibi 68), Hird, Nolan, Gardner, O’Shea, Dennis, Evans. Subs: Allinson, Ebanks-Blake, Mitchell, Martinez Maguire, Simons.
Coventry: Burge (GK), Foley (Di Kelly-Evans 82), Willis (C), Clarke, Haynes, Reilly (Stevenson 74), Rose, G.Thomas, Reid, Tudgay, Beavon. Subs: Charles-Cook (GK), Turnbull, Dev. Kelly-Evans, Gadzhev, Lameiras.
Referee: Mr Nicholas Kenseley. Assistants: Mr Mark Duncan, Mr Chris Isherwood.
Goalscorer: Gardner 77.
Yellows: Evans 90; Haynes 90, Beavon 90.
Attendance: 5,896 (1,016).