Atkinson Guns Down Shots
On-loan Huddersfield youngster Chris Atkinson's second-half strike was enough to give the Spireites a richly-deserved 1-0 win against Aldershot Town in beautiful sunshine at The Recreation Ground, as Tommy Wright's side bounced back in style from the midweek defeat at Morecambe to clinch their first win on the road this season.
The visitors had completely dominated proceedings after the restart in Hampshire and got their noses in front just 15 minutes from time when the onrushing Atkinson confidently dispatched past Jamie Young with a classy side-footed finish to notch his second goal since joining on loan from Huddersfield Town.
Caretaker manager Wright made two changes from the side that suffered a 2-0 defeat away at Morecambe on Tuesday evening, handing Blackburn loanee Micah Evans his first start for the Spireites in place of the injured Danny Whitaker and Mark Allott also returned to the fray at the expense of captain Sam Hird, who picked up a knock at The Globe Arena.
Richard O'Donnell once again retained his place in goal with Tommy Lee still sidelined with a shoulder injury and with skipper Hird also out, the Scotsman was forced to reshuffle his back-line for the first time since the 1-1 draw with table-topping Gillingham at Priestfield back in September. Drew Talbot was employed in attack against Jim Bentley's side, but the versatile 26-year-old moved to right-back, with Terrell Forbes employed at the heart of defence alongside Neal Trotman.
Liam Ridehalgh once again started at left-back, with the midfield comprising of veteran Mark Allott and stand-in skipper Sam Togwell. Terriers loanee Atkinson was in the hole off the forward, while 19-year-old Evans made his full debut on the right, with Darikwa on the left either side of lone-wolf Craig Westcarr up front. Last year's young player of the year Jack Broadhead was named on the bench for the visitors, while former Chesterfield trialist Kieron Cadogan was also named amongst the substitutes for the hosts.
Dean Holdsworth's side had been in disastrous form since their 2-0 opening day win against Plymouth Argyle, winning just one of their previous 10 games and also surrendering a seemingly unassailable three-goal lead at Plainmoor on Tuesday night to succumb to a 4-3 defeat against Martin Ling's Torquay. Chesterfield, meanwhile, had mustered just three points from an available 15 on the road this season but had seen an impressive nine-game unbeaten run come to a sudden halt against The Shrimps in midweek.
It was the hosts, however, who stared on the front foot in beautiful sunshine at The Recreation Ground and skipper Togwell had to be alert inside the third minute to nod the ball away from underneath O'Donnell's crossbar. Danny Hylton was the first to register a shot on target, but after some neat build-up play on the near side his weak effort was comfortably gathered by the former Sheffield Wednesday stopper.
The visitors forced their first corner in the 10th minute, but it was Town's Troy Brown who nearly inadvertently put through his own net two minutes later when he fortunately headed Darikwa's dangerous cross into the side-netting. The woodwork came to the visitors' rescue shortly afterwards, when 33-year-old defender Guy Branston bundled a header goalwards before half-hearted Aldershot penalty claims were waved away by Mr. Stephen Martin.
Craig Clay replaced Allott in the 21st minute as Wright's injury crisis worsened and Trotman's header nestled on the roof of Young's goal after the referee's whistle had gone as a largely uneventful opening period drifted towards half-time with a distinct lack of goalmouth action at either end of the field.
Former Newport County striker Craig Reid had scored six goals for The Shots so far this season - three of which coming against Torquay on Tuesday - but he had been kept relatively quiet so far before he finally sprung to life five minutes before the break, wriggling free to supply a good cross for Alex Rodman at the far post, but O'Donnell was equal to his effort as both sides remained deadlocked heading into the dressing rooms.
Chesterfield were rocked by two goals either side of the break in Lancashire, but they looked much brighter after the break and former Scunthorpe man Togwell forced Young into a comfortable low save after good interchange from Westcarr and Evans six minutes after the restart. The Spireites were looking much more assured in possession, as Blackburn loanee Evans drifted off the flank to provide the isolated Westcarr with some welcome company.
And it was the former Notts County man who presented the onrushing Atkinson with a glorious opportunity 11 minutes into the second half when he dinked a sublime chip into the youngster's path, but the on-loan Terrier could only weight his lob over the crossbar with Young rooted to the spot. It was the best chance of the game so far and an encouraging sign that Wright's team could grab that decisive opening goal.
Aldershot threatened too on the hour-mark, Trotman blocked Hylton's well-timed volley before Rodman's speculative effort flew into the grateful arms of O'Donnell. It was the visitors, though, who were looking the more likely, as Evans' teasing cross narrowly eluded Westcarr in the centre and Young gathered when the latter attempted to return the favour.
Atkinson flashed an effort wide on the bounce after Talbot's clip had only been headed partially clear, before Evans embarked on a terrific jinking run only to be halted in the penalty box by second-half substitute Adam Mekki. But with just 15 minutes remaining, it was Atkinson who gave The Spireites a deserved lead with a wonderful side-footed finish into the far corner following a lung-busting run, after the ball fell kindly into his path when Westcarr had tried to turn his man.
The visitors had to survive a late scare when Hylton glanced his header wide, but Wright's side held on to clinch their first three-point haul away from the Proact Stadium.
Aldershot Town (4-2-3-1)- Young; Herd (c), Branston, Lancashire, Tonkin; Brown, Morris (Rankine 84); Donnelly (Mekki 63), Rodman (Payne 74), Hylton; Reid.
Unused Subs - Bradley, Anderson, Cadogan, Morris.
Bookings - Hylton (30), Payne (81)
Goals - N/A
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1) - O'Donnell; Talbot, Forbes, Trotman, Ridehalgh; Togwell (c), Allott (Clay 21); Atkinson, Evans (Lester 90+2), Darikwa; Westcarr.
Unused Subs - Wilson, Boden, Hazel, Broadhead.
Bookings - Clay (50)
Goals - Atkinson (76)
Referee - Mr. S Martin
Attendance - 2,006 (237 away)