Spireites Singing In The Rain
Marc Richards' second strike in as many games since his return from injury ensured Chesterfield made it three wins on the bounce with a vintage smash and grab 1-0 win at a rain-soaked Home Park.
The former Port Vale man shaped home a wonderful predatory finish 24 minutes from time after second-half substitutes Luis Boa Morte and Jack Lester had combined to enable the 30-year-old hit man to fire home the decisive goal and send home the magnificent travelling contingent back to Derbyshire with all three points.
Manager Paul Cook plumped to name an unchanged side from the one that had comfortably dispatched of high-flying Cheltenham Town on Tuesday, with the Spireites making the trip to Devonshire in search of their third successive win. The Pilgrims, meanwhile, had gone seven games without tasting victory although Home Park remained an unhappy hunting ground for the visitors, who suffered a 7-0 drubbing in their last encounter here.
The weather was undoubtedly the worst so far this season, with swirling winds and swashbuckling rain pummelling the roof of the old Mayflower Stand, but credit to the hosts' ground staff, who had got this game ahead on a wonderful glossy surface. About 150 travelling fans had made the arduous journey to Plymouth and the visitors kicked off proceedings attacking the away end, once again in their change strip of gold. The Liverpudlian's side had responded from a disappointing result at the Memorial Stadium with back-to-back home wins, which remarkably moved them to within just seven points of the automatic promotion places. But after an initially promising opening - mainly via the flickering feet of Brennan Dickinson - the home side got themselves on the front foot amidst difficult conditions.
Former Chelsea and Manchester United trialist Paris Cowan-Hall has impressed for Carl Fletcher's side since his arrival from Woking this season - scoring on four occasions - and he drifted in from the right-hand side before unleashing a powerful drive into the arms of Tommy Lee. Former Scunthorpe United man Sam Togwell had opened his account for the season against the Robins last week, but he would have been forgiven for getting carried away after his attempted half-volley flew towards the corner flag after Dickinson once again carried the visitors further upfield.
But Fletcher, who has been under pressure from the vociferous home support of late, witnessed his side regain the initiative through Onismor Bhasera, who combined nicely with Andres Gurrieri, although the Argentine's shot brushed the side-netting while half the ground thought it had breached Lee's net. It was Cowan-Hall that was next to flirt with the opening goal, teasing Nathan Smith with some delightful skill on the far side before sending in a vicious cross-cum-shot that was somehow scrambled clear by those of Chesterfield persuasion.
In fairness to Cook's side, they had dealt with the onslaught from Argyle impressively. Particularly skipper Sam Hird, who was leading his troops by example and the former Doncaster man reluctantly went to ground with a superb, sliding challenge to halt Mark Molesley as he fired comfortably over from range. The rain continued to pour from the grey skies and the Spireites finally went with the wind, predictably through young Seagull Dickinson who crossed for Richards, but the former Port Vale striker could only slice his shot wide after he had attempted to turn barely six yards out.
The hosts once again forced another succession of corners, but Lee this time cleared superbly before Cowan-Hall's mis-hit cross had the Chesterfield player of the year scrambling back to his goal-line, but thankfully for him it dropped onto the roof of his net. He was forced into his first save of ernest almost immediately after, when Argyle captain Conor Hourihane thumped a powerful volley goalwards but it was met with an equally strong palm from Lee.
The visitors' goal was beginning to live a charmed life and when Lee was finally beaten, his captain Hird was once again by his side as he flicked Cowan-Hall's close-range volley onto the face of the crossbar and Cook's side escaped via a lick of paint. With the winds howling, it looked as though Chesterfield had weathered the proverbial storm onfield as the first-half came to a close and the former Accrington boss replaced the sprightly Dickinson with the experienced Boa Morte at the interval.
The Portguguese winger sought to make his impact immediate, firstly sending in a teasing cross that eluded Richards, before wildly firing a speculative effort wide of Rene Gilmartin's upright. But alas, it was finally an end to the green siege which had been brought upon Cook's men. It was only momentary though, as Gurrieri's deflected effort fell kindly and Alex MacDonald was unfortunate to curl his effort the wrong side of the woodwork.
But predictably - as is so often when sides don't take their chances - it was the visitors who struck the opening blow through Richards in the 66th minute. The veteran striker had worked tirelessly in attack for the Spireites, but when his evergreen strike partner Lester arrived alongside him, the pair flickered to life. It was through Boa Morte's rampaging run and sumptuous cross that Cook's side would pounce, Sam Hird elegantly chesting the ball down for Richards to shape home from close range.
Argyle roared back, MacDonald snatched one wide before Hourihane's header ballooned over the crossbar as Fletcher prepared to launch one final assault at his guests. The Spireites were then dealt a hue slice of luck, as Derrell Berry once again embarked on a trademark saloon down the right, his attempted cross appeared to thump the flailing arm of Togwell but miraculously, Argyle's appears fell on deaf ears. Substitute Guy Madjo had the final chance, but he completely missed the ball when he pulled the trigger and thankfully for Cook and his side, Argyle's arsenal had finally surrendered.
Plymouth Argyle - Gilmartin, Berry, Blanchard, Hourihane (c), Cowan-Hall (Madjo 75), Chadwick (Grifths 75), Bhasera, Nelson, Gurrieri (Lennox 73), Moleley, MacDonald.
Unused Subs - Cole, Lowry, Richards, Harvey.
Goals - N/A
Bookings - Molesley (61)
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) - Lee; Talbot, Hird (c), Cooper, Smith; Togwell, Atkinson; Darikwa, Dickinson (Boa Morte 45), Whitaker (Lester 62); Richards (Clay 82).
Unused Subs - O'Donnell, Forbes, Townsend, O'Shea.
Goals - Richards (66)
Bookings - Whitaker (52), Hird (71)
Referee - Mr. Graham Scott
Attendance - 5,711