Derek Niven was passed fit to play against Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road, despite carrying five stitches in a head wound that precipitated his substitution against Northampton in midweek. Mark Allott, Scott Griffiths and Jack Lester were stood down from the starting line-up, with Kieran Djilali, Ian Morris and Dean Morgan coming in for them. The pitch looked heavy, with standing water having been seen on it in the morning.
Morgan began up front with Craig Davies, with Djilali and Smalley wide on the left and right, Murphy had the game's first effort in the second minute, but shot weakly and did not trouble Tommy Lee. A similar product came at the end of Deane Smalley's 2nd-minute run at the Crewe defence.
Lee gathered after Donaldson looked to get in on 4. Morgan beat Artell for pace and crossed on 5; Blanchett was forced to put the ball out for the first corner of the game. Taken quickly, and short, Ada was forced to hack clear. Taylor came quickly to claim Morgan's cross on 9, as Chesterfield put some decent pressure together. Donaldson claimed a corner, or a push, after Robertson showed strength in the challenge on 13.
The opening fifteen was competitive but inconclusive. Chesterfield kept possession well but were unable to fashion a clear chance against a hardened Crewe rearguard. The Alex won their first corner on 21, following Niven's strong challenge. Smalley nodded it down and Whitaker swept the ball away. Morgan played a fine ball over the top on 23 but Davies couldn't quite make a decent contact in trying to chest it on.
Blanchett denied Smalley's progress at the expense of Chesterfield's second corner on 25. Whitaker's cross was met by Smalley's head but the ball went narrowly over. The game developed an end to end character. Djilali broke on 26 but the ball was won back and played forward; Donaldson broke and came inside to shoot, but the ball deflected off Morris and clipped a post on the way out for a corner. Djilali was fouled on the edge of the box as the ball came over.
Donaldson nodded down for Moore on the half-hour but he dithered, and Chesterfield won the ball and broke. Back at the Chesterfield end, Crewe won another corner off Morris. Blanchett took it; it went beyond everyone, including the well-placed Artell, and went out after a touch from a visiting player. The next corner was poor.
Kieran Djilali was booked for dangerous play on 34, after a high boot connected with Bell's head. Crewe took the lead on 35 after Donaldson chased a long ball over the top and bore down on goal before rolling it under the diving Tommy Lee. Morgan attempted an immediate response, but his shot from 25 yards flashed wide.
Halftime: Crewe Alex 1 Chesterfield 0. Attendance: 4503. (1003 from Chesterfield.)
Taylor denied Whitaker with a fine save as Chesterfield pressed for an equaliser in the second half's early phase. Chesterfield brought Allott on for Niven after 56 minutes. Lester replaced Kieran Djilali a minute later. Within moments Lester was there with his back to goal, gathering the ball and laying it into the path of Davies, who shot wide.
Davies saw an audacious shot saved by Taylor at the expense of a corner on the hour. Morris's shot from the cross was rather too hasty in its execution to trouble the goalkeeper. Donaldson went down under Robertson's challenge in the box on 61 but the referee waved away penalty claims.
Luke Murphy shot on 65 and the ball deflected for a corner. Blanchett's delivery came to Murphy but Talbot blocked. Talbot knocked a Donaldson long throw out for a corner which Artell met, but put over the bar for a goal kick.
Davies was clattered over by Dugdale on 69, and the Crewe man was booked for his efforts. Lester put the ball into the net after Morris received it from the kick and crossed, but he was caught offside.
Crewe were always dangerous and won another corner on 71. Chesterfield came back; Davies swung at air on the edge of the box but it came to Whitaker, whose shot was curled against the post on 74. It came to Jack Lester, who put the ball unaccountably side. Davies saw a shot blocked by Bell as Chesterfield took their turn to attack in this engrossing match.
Smalley won a corner on 75. Morgan forced a fine save from Taylor from the corner. Donaldson got in behind Robertson but shot wide; Chesterfield went straight back up the other end as the game continued at a cracking pace.
Crewe brought Shelley on for Westwood after 78. Holden was tripped but went to ground and put his hands on the ball as if to gather it for the free kick, but the ref penalised him for handball, and booked him, with eight minutes left.
Lester nutmegged Artell on 84 and went on, but was brought down by the Crewe man on the edge of the area. Artell was booked, but his booking might have bought the win. Morgan was replaced by Boden before the free kick was taken.
Robertson fouled Miller on the edge of the Chesterfield penalty area. Artell was replaced by another Ashley Westwood with four minutes left. From the free kick, Shelley drove the ball home to make the score 2-0 and seal the win.