Chesterfield embarked on their first season back in League One with a visit to Prenton Park, to play Tranmere Rovers this afternoon. While August visits to Rovers had produced mixed results in the past, the Spireites' only other league game on this day concluded with a thumping win at Blackpool in 2005-6.
With Rovers playing all in white, Chesterfield came onto the field in an all-blue kit. Apart from the recovering Gregor Robertson, Manager John Sheridan had a fully-fit squad to choose from. The big news was an away start for Jack Lester, up front with Jordan Bowery. Nathan Smith and Mark Randall made their Spireite debuts; Simon Ford was preferred to Dean Holden in defence. Holden was among the five named substitutes.
Tranmere kicked off, attacking a Cowshed End that contained a fine away following. Making a confident start, Dean Morgan made it to the opposition box before being tackled. Lester received a pass from Danny Whitaker and was pushed in the back, presenting the visitors with a free kick halfway inside the Rovers half, on 4. Mattis won the header but it came off Goodison and Rovers cleared.
Smith won the game's first corner, on 7. Whitaker's kick cleared everyone and shot out for a Rovers throw, under McGurk's supervision. Chesterfield brought the ball back into Rovers territory and Lester and Whitaker couldn't quite get shots away in a good spell of pressure and Morgan crossed, but the keeper claimed it. Under no pressure, Kay cleared for a second Chesterfield corner in the 9th minute. Whitaker's second kick was less deep but headed clear. Rovers mounted a break of their own but Devaney could make nothing of it.
Ford found Morgan with a great ball and Deano was challenged late by Kay. Bowery got to the free kick at the back post and headed back, but Rovers took possession and broke. Nathan smith robbed the Rovers man conclusively to bring the home side's attack to an end.
Tommy Lee was called into action for the first time, getting down to claim Devaney's shot from the edge of the area on 15. Robinson sent an inswinging free kick over and Ford headed clear. Attacking quickly, Lester was called offside but the call was tight.
Randall found Talbot and McGurk brought Drew down. Randall took the free kick, looking for Lester's run, but the ball went loose. Randall was brought down for a free kick on the edge of the box on 19. Randall and Whitaker stood over it; Randall bent it over the wall and although it dipped late, it didn't come down enough and cleared the bar by a couple of feet.
McGurk took a throw long towards Goodison on 22, but Ford headed away and Randall cleared. Rovers appeared to have come into the game more, retaining possession rather better than in the opening exchanges.
The game went into a battling phase until Chesterfield won a free kick; it went towards Bowery, who was shoved off it by McChrystal. Rovers countered with another long throw; Mattis headed clear but Walsh got through to fire a shot that Lee had to save. With two Rovers men waiting, Talbot headed a cross over for a corner on 30. McChrystal headed the flag kick over.
Talbot drilled a cross over in the 32nd minute and it took a thick deflection off a Rovers man, but the officials saw fit to award a goal kick. Allott lost possession and Tiryaki had options right and left, but he chose to shoot and the opportunity passed. Rovers had started playing one up front and Chesterfield adjusted their shape to match their five-man midfield as the half wore on, bringing Jordan Bowery deeper and to the right, especially when Rovers had possession. Ford had to win an important header as halftime closed in, and the first half came to a close with the scores level.
Halftime: Rovers 0, Spireites 0.
The second half began as the first half finished, with neither side doing enough to fashion a clear chance. It seemed that one goal would win it and that that might come from a defensive mistake, as much as anything. Randall was harshly judged to have fouled Weir on 50. Rovers were playing at a higher tempo than Chesterfield now, and were seeing more of the ball.
Devaney crossed after a neat turn by Weir and Lee claimed the ball well. Smith beat Devaney but the Rovers man went down and a free kick was given. Rovers fans called for a corner but, as with Chesterfield's one in the first half, the ref saw it as a goal kick. Smith's 58th-minute challenge on weir left the Rovers man on the ground; the free kick into the Spireite box was easy meat for Tommy Lee.
Talbot made a crucial block in the box on 59 after McGurk fired Devaney's cross goalward. Activity on the Chesterfield bench forewarned of a substitution: Derek Niven replaced Dean Morgan on the hour. The changes saw Bowery and Randall both forge further up the pitch. Bowery worked himself into a crossing position and won a throw on 65. Robinson went into the book for protesting after his foul on Allott on 67. Allott went into the book moments later for a foul of his own.
The Chesterfield changes meant that they could keep possession a little better, and this increased their influence on the game. Good work by Niven led to his side's first corner of the game and it was quickly taken to Randall, whose flick presented Lester with a half-chance that was narrowly put wide.
Rovers took the lead on 74 when a quickly taken throw caught the visitors napping, allowing Weir to stab the ball past Lee. Rovers immediately brought Tiryaki off for Akins. Randall was replaced by Holden on 77. The sub's first involvement was to head behind for a corner. Talbot's challenge on Devaney in the aftermath of the corner kick might have produced a penalty on another day.
Ford moved to fullback, allowing Talbot to provide width on the right, but the visitors lacked similar width on the left since Morgan's withdrawal. Talbot headed goalwards on 80 but Fon Williams claimed the ball well. Rovers brought Labadie for Devaney and Chesterfield swapped Boden for Ford with six minutes left. Rovers had a chance to seal it on 88 but a free header was directed straight at Tommy Lee.
Full time: Rovers 1 Spireites 0