Chesterfield named an unchanged starting eleven for the game against Rochdale at the B2Net this afternoon, while Gregor Robertson returned to the bench. If there was a winner, then the other side would definitely go down; irrespective of the score here, both sides would be doomed if the results went well for Walsall and Leyton Orient. For Rochdale, influential midfielder and skipper Gary Jones made a surprise return after being dropped for the comeback win over Exeter last Saturday.
Jones had clearly been brought back to play in a set-up to oppose our recent switch to a three-man central midfield, but he spurned a glorious early chance to score when he slipped Thompson and advanced on Lee before trying to curl the ball into the opposite corner. In the event he missed the target by a yard. Chesterfield came back and won the game's first corner, on 4. Moussa's kick was cleared but Randall drove the ball goalwards, forcing Edwards into making a save.
Akpa Akpro dived to head a Tutte shot on 16 and ended up steering it wide, to the annoyance of team-mates who thought the original shot goalbound. Joe Thompson fired over a vicious cross that took the slightest deflection off John Thompson on its way for Dale's first corner, on 22. Lee came to claim with conviction. From the break, Mendy strode forward past two defenders and found Bowery, whose shot was deflected a yard wide for a corner.
Thompson rescued Chesterfield after Akpa Akpro forced his way in and found Kennedy. The Dale man's shot was bravely blocked by the Celtic loanee, at the expense of a corner. Simon Ford needed treatment for a facial injury in the wake of this, and disappeared down the tunnel holding a huge towel to his head.
A tidy Tutte shot from distance was well claimed by Lee on 32, just as Ford was replaced by Gregor Robertson. Kennedy took the ball into the box and around three defenders but Ridehalgh managed to do enough to force him into dribbling a shot wide when he looked set to score.
Randall became the first name in Mr. Pawson's notebook on 43, for a clumsy foul on Widdowson.
Halftime: 0-0. Attendance: 5,954 (359 from Dale.)
The first half had been a tame affair but the thought of what was at stake kept the crowd on edge. Widdowson went into the book on 51 after a two-footed tackle on Westcarr that gave The Spireites a free kick to the side of the Dale penalty box. Ridehalgh's neat cross went to the back stick, where Bowery headed the ball down, but it rippled the side netting after squeaking wide.
Chesterfield brought Whitaker on for Westcarr after 58 minutes. Initially it looked as though Dan would go wide left and Mendy wide right, but Moussa seemed to be pushed up to play off Bowery. Adams came into the action for Dale, in place of McConville, with 60 on the clock.
Chesterfield's goal enjoyed a stroke of luck on 65. Randall's poor touch presented the ball to Jones, who shot against bar; Lee, wrongfooted by the shot, got down smartly to save from point blank range, from Joe Thompson.
The Spireites' system wasn't really offering them any command so, just as at Hartlepool last week, it was changed. Boden replaced Randall after 65 and the team went into a more obvious 4-4-2.
Before the home side could really settle, though, Dale took the lead. Akpa Akpro broke through on 72; Thompson went with him and appeared to be keeping him on his wrong foot well, but the Dale man cut in at the last moment before guiding a shot past Lee's left hand and into the net. It might have been two, moments later; Lee made a great save from Adams, who was on the penaltry spot and unmarked. Both Chesterfield full-backs appeared to be struggling with knee injuries, but both played through the pain and shook the knocks off.
As Chesterfield frustration mounted Bowery was booked for pulling Amankwaa back on 75. Chesterfield began to exert some pressure and Bowery forced a corner off Amankwaa on 78. The commanding Dale defender cleared a deep free kick as Boden closed in on 80.
Chesterfield equalised with ten minutes left. Robertson, whose distribution had been noticeably good since coming on, put over a searching cross that Bowery knocked down for SCOTT BODEN to close in bravely and force the ball home from close range. The momentum of the game had suddenly - and almost inexplicably - changed, and Chesterfield pressured the Rochdale goal more fiercely than at any stage in the game so far. Their reward was a winning goal, on 84. Moussa picked up a Whitaker pass and fired goalwards; the ball struck the bar and came back out. DANNY WHITAKER wanted it most, and took a step or two to control before crashing the ball into the Dale net to spark scenes of great celebration. Lee stuck to a dangerous cross in injury time to deny Dale at his left-hand post, and Boden saw a fierce shot saved; with the news coming in that Walsall had contrived to lose despite leading twice, and Orient had conceded a late equaliser, the Spireites' battle against relegation was extended by one more week.