Chesterfield made two changes to the starting line-up for the trip to Rochdale on Tuesday night. Lee Johnson came in for Mark Allott, who took up a place among the substitutes, while Aaron Downes came in for Mark Randall, who joined Allott, Clay, Bowery and Morgan on the bench. While Rochdale were expected to start with a 4-3-3 line-up, Chesterfield began with a fluid 4-5-1 outlook that featured Westcarr and Smith at its widest point and promised a freer role for Mendy in the centre, and placed Danny Whitaker in the hole behind Clarke.
The Spireites began brightly enough, keeping possession, without summoning up a threat on goal until Westcarr's cross was headed away by Balkestein on 6. When Rochdale did get forward on 9, Aaron Downes defended firmly to deny Grimes. Smith got down the left to cross beyond Lucas, and Balkestein had to head the ball behind for the game's first corner, on 12. Mendy got a head to Whitaker's kick but it squeezed out for a goal kick.
Dale came more into the game on 15 and Akpa Akpro was played through into the penalty area; taking the ball as close as the 6-yard box, he blazed into the side netting, without testing Greg Fleming in the Chesterfield goal.
Ecclestone was played through on 20 and Drew Talbot did well to read the situation and get a block in; the Liverpool loanee kept possession and shot, but the ball flew wide. Smith's cross on 21 hit Darby and flew out for the Spireites' second corner; the ball was worked short to Johnson and his shot was blocked. Trotman cleared a near-post cross from in front of Clarke.
A powerful Mendy shot flew narrowly wide on 25 and the linesman flagged for a corner, which Balkestein headed away. Clarke's header from a Mendy cross went close, but was again put behind for a corner; Lucas gathered on the edge of the six-yard box and set up a Rochdale break which Holden cleared up neatly with his head. A powerful Smith run ended with a cross towards Clarke, whose flick on flew wide.
Chesterfield retained the broad initiative on the strength of a greater competitive streak than had been evident, perhaps, in recent games. This greater resolve was rewarded on 35 when CRAIG WESTCARR took a free kick pass from Grounds and blasted a shot goalward from around 25 yards out; with the aid of a slight deflection it flew past the stranded Lucas and into the net for the ex­-Magpie's fourth goal in nine League games.
Eccleston slipped when closing in on goal and Downes went to clear but whacked the ball against the Rochdale man. Luckily, it flew wide, but no-one could deny that the Spireites had earned this good fortune through hard work. Rochdale won a corner off Holden, who looked as though he might have been fouled in conceding it. Nevertheless, Barry-Murphy took it and Fleming came to punch; Balkestein drove the clearance over.
On the stroke of halftime, Jones went into the book for a foul on the influential Johnson. Westcarr and Clarke exchanged passes and the latter was presented with a great chance which Lucas saved as the halftime whistle blew.
Halftime: Dale 0 Spireites 1. Attendance: 2,494
Rochdale made a change before the second half started, bringing Adams on for Akpa Akpro. Chesterfield won a corner on 47 after good work by Drew Talbot. Whitaker's kick was headed away by Barry-Murphy. Rochdale won their second corner of the game when Grounds headed out on 51, rather too close to his own posts for the comfort of anxious travelling fans! Westcarr cleared the near-post in-swinger. Rochdale were having their best period of the game at this stage, having made the half-time substitution to counter our set-up.
Whitaker played Clarke in on 55 and he took the ball well into the penalty area but fired his shot over the bar. Tutte went into Fleming on 59 but the Spireite keeper was able to continue after treatment, and immediately pulled off a decent save from Balkestein. Mendy went on a fine mazy run but was tackled; Whitaker picked it up and crossed, but the ball was cleared. The Spireites kept it up at the Dale end, though; Johnson and Whitaker played a one-two before Danny nutmegged a defender and fired narrowly wide on 63.
After another fine passage of good Spireite football Smith laid the ball back to Westcarr on the edge of the box on 65, and he fired narrowly wide.
Rochdale made their second substitution on 67 minutes, bringing Gray on for Barry-Murphy. Rochdale's top two typist's nightmares had gone off, at least! Clarke broke down the wing and got the ball over towards Westcarr, at the back post, but he came at it too hard, perhaps, and spooned the ball over the bar. Chesterfield had had several good second-half chances to kill the game but had not, yet.
Downes got back after Grimes broke through on 73 and forced the forward into making a poor effort on goal. Chesterfield were punished for their profligacy on 74 when Gary Jones slid the ball past Fleming to record the equalising goal. Almost immediately Mendy carried the ball into the Dale box before crossing, but Smith could only shoot weakly, and Lucas saved easily.
A poor Fleming clearance on 78 went straight to Ecclestone, but he shot poorly, and was immediately substituted to let Kennedy into the game. Jones gave away a Chesterfield corner on 81. Whitaker's flag kick was met by the head of Downes but cleared by a Dale man and they broke; Adams buried the ball into the net but the offside flag kept the scores level. Mendy streamed to the other end with the ball but no-one could capitalise on his hard work.
Chesterfield continued to go at Dale and the home side tried to hit the visitors on the break. It was exciting stuff, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Fleming pushed an Adams shot onto the post and away on 87 and Tutte picked up the follow-up to fire thankfully wide.
Craig Clay replaced Danny Whitaker on 87. Chesterfield won a late corner that Johnson took, but Lucas was able to hold the cross. Another Johnson corner sailed across and out as the game reached its conclusion.