Sven's Circus rolled into town tonight: while all the ballyhoo had been about County before the game, Chesterfield's performance has the serious critics making appreciative noises.
The Spireites went in with a completely unchanged line-up, subs and all, from the side that defeated Northampton Town on Saturday. Notts County gave a debut to this week's new signing Johnny Jackson, but left Kasper Schmeichel out completely, with Russell Hoult getting the nod in the nets.
Both sides tried to play decent football in the game's early phase and cancelled eachother out, for the first ten minutes or so. Still, it was absorbing stuff, even for a game pegged at 0-0. The early half- chances fell to Chesterfield; Talbot had an effort blocked as he shot on 2, while Lowry dribbled menacingly into the County box on 6, eventually winning the game's first corner.
The home side had taken command by the time Derek Niven drilled a shot goalward on 19, but Hoult was well-placed to make a comfortable save. Evidence was presented that set-pieces are being worked on in training; a Picken free kick on 22 found Breckin's head at the near post; Talbot laid the ball back to Allott, whose firm shot was again held by Hoult.
County fashioned half a chance - their first of the game, really - on 26, when Breckin was called on to block a Davies effort. Moments later Page produced a tackle to deny Hughes.
Chesterfield fashioned their best chance of the game, on 37. A Lowry throw was helped into the path of Talbot, twelve yards out and with time and space, but his left-foot shot was too weak to trouble Hoult. Chesterfield's determination and ability had reduced County to a shadow of the side that had destroyed all in their path thus far, and some of their players didn't seem up for it.
Talbot redeemed himself with a fine through-ball to Lester, but Jack was unable to punish County for their recent laughable £50k "bid" with a goal. Ravenhill expressed County's frustration with a poor challenge on Talbot that earned the game's first yellow card, on 39. Lester went down on 42 after what looked like the faintest of touches and County's senior men were in the ref's ear straight away; it is possible to speculate that this had a slight bearing on later events.
Drew Talbot became the first Chesterfield player to be shown a yellow card this season, in first-half stoppage time, after a return foul on Ravenhill.
The Spireites kept County waiting for the resumption but it was soon "business as usual," with Drew Talbot winning a corner after just 19 seconds of the second half. Chesterfield continued to control but couldn't quite find that bit extra to crack the visitors' defence.
County changed their approach on 56, bringing Karl Hawley on for the anonymous Rodgers. Almost straight away he sliced a header wide when well-place, but it was the visitors' best chance to then. Hawley would prove to be a menace for a while, at least; Breckin got just in front of him to head for a corner on 62, but such was the home side's domination that that was County's first flag-kick of the game. The kick was cleared to Westcarr, who crossed for Hughes to head narrowly over.
Jack Lester was booked on 22 for being late in the challenge on Westcarr. As County pressed Phil Picken - who we once thought would have been in black and white stripes tonight - twice blocked in a desperate but effective fashion, on 71. When the ball broke loose to Westcarr outside the box, he obligingly shot over the bar.
Chesterfield regained the initiative and worked the ball down the right on 76, finding Lester in the box. He looked to have beaten Thompson on the bye-line but the County man brought Jack down. Momentarily, it seemed as though the ref didn't want to give the penalty - perhaps he'd got the 42nd-minute free kick award in his mind - but the linesman flagged, and the kick was awarded. Jamie Lowry stepped up to crash the ball past Hoult and set Saltergate rocking.
Two minutes later Talbot worked the ball into the box in the same place, against Hunt, who tripped Drew from behind. Jamie Lowry again stepped up, and sent Hoult the wrong way this time - 2-0 to Chesterfield. The Kop roof nearly came off ten months sooner than planned!
County brought Clapham on after 80 to try to restore a level head to their midfield. Jordan Bowery replaced Talbot two minutes later but Edwards pulled one back a minute after that, although his conversion looked to be helped by a generous shove on Derek Niven. Robertson replaced McDermott, who had plugged away despite usually having two, and sometimes three men on him. As the game entered stoppage time Mark Allott went into the book for a foul on Davies as the midfielder shaped to shoot from 25 yards. The Spireites were put under some fierce pressure but this Sheridan team appears to be made of resolute stuff, and further clear chances for County did not materialise.
Full-time: 2-1 to Chesterfield.
Attendance: 6196 (2191 from Notts)