MATCH REPORT: Chesterfield 2-2 Carlisle United - Dennis header earns Spireites a point
Chesterfield had to settle for a point after a see-saw encounter with Carlisle that got better and better as it went on.
The Spireites took a first half lead and looked comfortably the better side until a slow start to the second period let Carlisle back into the game.
And when the visitors took the lead on 74 minutes it looked like another defeat, before a late rally and Kristian Dennis’ 10th goal of the season, saw Town snatch a draw.
Jack Lester will look back on missed chances and a couple of fine saves from away stopper Jack Bonham as he continues to look for his first home win as manager.
The pressing game Lester has introduced at the Proact almost brought early reward when Matt Briggs blocked a Gary Liddle clearance and, having got the ball back from Dennis, saw his tame shot saved by Jack Bonham.
A slightly late challenge from Briggs on Liddle earned him the game’s first yellow card after eight minutes.
The next half an hour of action was forgettable. Chesterfield had the better of the possession but were unable to do much with it, bar another Briggs effort that trickled out of play.
Rowley finally provided the spark the game needed with a slaloming run through the heart of the visiting team, only stopping when Liddle fouled him 30 yards from goal to earn a booking.
Andy Kellett tapped the free-kick into the path of Jak McCourt and he hammered the ball low and hard into Bonham’s right hand corner for a 40th minute opener.
Carlisle offered very little in the first half, but whatever Keith Curle said at the break appeared to have an impact as the Cumbrians came out strongly and won an early corner - Town keeper Tommy Lee eventually gathering.
The visitors were aided in the opening stages of the second period by some very lax moments in possession by Briggs and then Weir, the pair setting Carlisle on the counter attack with their carelessness.
Town didn’t heed the warning they received when Ian Evatt had to divert behind a dangerous ball across the box, the home side sleeping as the corner came in allowing Danny Grainger a simple header that gave Lee no chance and levelled the game.
With his side on the back foot and rocking, Jack Lester sent on Chris O’Grady for the fading Kellett, making the change just before a well worked Carlisle corner that ended in a Nicky Adams’ shot that Lee saved well.
O’Grady’s first contribution was a nice ball out to the right for Rowley that set Town on the counter, before Briggs lashed a shot onto the top of the crossbar from 20 yards.
That seemed to wake the home side, who threatened again with a pair of McCourt blasts, one saved by Bonham and the other blocked by a defender.
But with 16 minutes remaining the game swung in Carlisle’s favour as replacement Richie Bennett looked up, picked his spot from 25 yards and drilled a shot past Lee’s despairing dive and into the net.
Town’s own substitute should have made it 2-2 when Rowley did magnificently to keep the ball in at the byline and knock it into the six yard area, O’Grady meeting it with a diving header that cleared the bar.
Lester’s men came even closer when McCourt whipped in a beautiful cross that Dennis headed goalwards, only to see Bonham flick out a hand to make a truly brilliant stop.
There was nothing the keeper could do to prevent the equaliser six minutes from time, Evatt storming up the field with the ball before linking with O’Grady and then clipping a delightful cross onto the head of Dennis who flicked it home.
Rowley almost capped a fine performance with what would have been goal of the season, running all the way from deep in his own half to the Carlisle box where he dinked it over Bonham, who again pulled out a wonderful save.
All the momentum was with the hosts in the late stages, O’Grady’s shot deflected over after a lovely Rowley touch and a number of corners headed away in desperate Carlisle defending, before the teams shared the spoils.
Chesterfield: Lee, Barry, Wiseman, Evatt, Hird; Briggs, Rowley, Weir, McCourt; Kellett (O’Grady 62); Dennis. Subs: Anyon, De Girolamo, Dimaio, Maguire, Sinnott, Mitchell.
Carlisle: Bonham, Brown, Miller (Bennett 46), Liddle, Hill; Adams (Rigg 82), Grainger, Joyce, Jones; Devitt; Hope (Parkes 90). Subs: Nabi, Cosgrove, George, Salkeld.
Yellows: Briggs 8; Liddle 39
Goals: McCourt 40, Dennis 84; Grainger 55, Bennett 74
Referee: Mr Brett Huxtable.
Assistants: Mr Ken Haycock, Mr Steven Rushton.
Attendance: 5,102 (643 away).