Chesterfield began life back in League Two with a disappointing 1-0 defeat against AFC Wimbledon on a beautiful summer's day at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, as Jack Midson's strike 10 minutes before half-time condemned the Spireites to defeat on the opening day.
John Sheridan's side were left to rue a string of missed chances after they dominated the opening period, but last season's joint League Two top scorer made the visitors pay when he latched onto a long punt forward in a flash before sliding what proved to be the decisive goal past the despairing Tommy Lee.
Sheridan opted to make two changes from the side that slipped to an extra-time defeat at the hands of League One Tranmere Rovers in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening, replacing Mark Allott with Mark Randall in midfield and bringing in Jordan Bowery for Craig Westcarr.
Typically for the season's opening day, the sun was shining in Kingston-upon-Thames and adorned in their brand new gold away strip, the Spireites started well and forced a flurry of corners in the opening 10 minutes. The forward line of Richards and Bowery was looking particularly dangerous and it was the former Port Vale man who almost gave the visitors the lead when, slipped through by Drew Talbot, he narrowly looped a dropping ball wide of the far post.
The Wombles responded in the 14th minute and called keeper Tommy Lee in to action when Brendan Kiernan met Sam Hird's partial clearance on the edge of the box with a left-footed volley, but he could only mis-fire into the 26-year-old's arms. Richards was making a nuisance of himself again three minutes later though, after he was once again found in the box by Talbot, but the chance was snuffed out by Dons' defender Mat Mitchel-King.
In spite of the blistering heat, Chesterfield had started at a high tempo and it was tricky winger Talbot who had the next decent opening after he jinked past a couple of challenges before finding the hosts' keeper Seb Brown's arms with his left foot. The home side had their number one to thank again in the 21st minute after a superb, flowing move from the Spireites involving Bowery, Richards and Talbot culminated in the latter seeing his shot turned over the bar.
Sheridan would have been pleased with the start his side had made and they came close to breaking the deadlock once again midway through the first-half when left-back Nathan Smith galloped down the flank before his cross-cum-shot was shovelled around the post. The home side's response was only fleeting and via a set-piece, as Angus MacDonald drilled a 30-yard free-kick into the side netting after the tenacious Sam Togwell had hauled down Stacy Long.
It served to give the home side fresh impetus though and in the 35th minute, Chesterfield were hit with a sucker-punch completely against the run of play when last season's League Two joint top-scorer Midson outpaced Neal Trotman to latch on to MacDonald's aimless pump forward and confidently slide past Lee.
It was certainly harsh on the visitors, but their reaction was encouraging as Togwell strode forward before pulling the ball back for Richards and when it eventually ended up at the feet of Bowery, the young forward couldn't swivel to fire past Brown. Bowery was involved again just after the restart, too, when he collected Richards' knock-down but he could only fluff his attempted drive wide.
Both sides exchanged half-chances, as the soaring temperature inevitably slowed down the frantic tempo before Bowery was replaced by Scott Boden just after the hour-mark and nine minutes later, Sheridan shuffled the pack by introducing Craig Westcarr for Trotman as Forbes moved inside, Talbot dropped back to right-back and Boden moved wide-right.
Play was temporarily brought to a halt soon after the changes, as a sprinkler accidentally sprung to life in the far corner of the pitch before Chesterfield sought inspiration from the most unlikely source as captain Hird won possession inside the Dons' half before driving forward and forcing Brown into a sprawling stop low to his right.
The manager then made his final change, withdrawing Richards for Jack Lester as Chesterfield prepared one final assault on the hosts' goal in the final 10 minutes and the substitute had an immediate impact as he won a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 85th minute, which was deflected clear after Westcarr had stepped up.
But with the visitors chasing the game, Terry Brown's men always looked dangerous on the break and second-half substitute Rashid Yusseff nearly put the seal on the game in the final minute when he was thwarted by the onrushing Lee after Midson had got in behind. One goal proved to be enough though, as the home side closed the game out with consummate ease to bring Chesterfield back down to League Two with a bump.
Chesterfield - Lee; Forbes, Trotman (Westcarr 69), Hird (c), Smith; Talbot, Randall, Togwell, Whitaker; Richards (Lester 80), Bowery (Boden 61).
AFC Wimbledon - Brown; MacDonald, Balkestein, Mitchel-King, Cummings; Kiernan (Jolley 66), S. Moore, Harris, Long (Yusseff 75), L. Moore; Midson.
Attendance - 3, 780 (606 away)