Chesterfield couldn't record their fourth successive home win against a well-organised Torquay United side on Saturday afternoon, as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw to extend their unbeaten run to nine games.
Youngster Tendayi Darikwa gave the home side a deserved lead three minutes after the break, when he latched onto the lively Craig Westcarr's incisive through ball to confidently convert his first senior goal, but Neal Trotman lost his footing merely two minutes later to present Rene Howe with the perfect opportunity to snatch a point for the Gulls, as both sides have now drawn a staggering six games apiece in their nine games this season.
19-year-old Blackburn winger Micah Evans arrived from Ewood Park on Thursday afternoon, but he was only named on the bench as the Scotsman chose to name the same side that held Northampton Town to a goalless draw last weekend. Danny Whitaker made his comeback from injury with a 10-minute cameo at Sixfields and he was also named amongst the substitutes alongside Jacob Hazel, who scored the only goal for the reserves against Oldham in midweek.
Torquay had won their previous away game against struggling AFC Wimbledon, but in spite of knocking the Spireites out of the FA Cup last season no team has endured a worse league record in Derbyshire, having failed to win in a staggering 18 attempts and Martin Ling's side made the long trip from the English Riviera having failed to bring the sunshine with them, as the home side got us underway on a cloudy September afternoon.
The game began with a stuttering start, as Drew Talbot received lengthy treatment after colliding with Joseph Oastler, but when play resumed it was the visitors who threatened first. Torquay were the fourth side to wear yellow at the Proact this season and they began as bright as their home strip, when skipper Sam Hird's stray leg diverted the ball goal-wards and Richard O'Donnell fortunately palmed the ball onto the underside of the crossbar.
Chesterfield responded in the 11th minute, when Michael Poke was alert to Talbot's fizzing shot on the turn as the 26-year-old stopper helped it over the bar, before the former Luton Town winger curled another effort narrowly wide of the far post five minutes later. The Gulls had suffered a hangover from their play-off semi-final defeat to Cheltenham Town last season and similarly to the Spireites, had mustered eleven points from eight games so far, but it was the hosts who had shaded the opening exchanges.
Wright's side fleetingly threatened again midway through the first period, when Lester nudged the ball to Chris Atkinson whose left-footed drive failed to trouble Poke. The on-loan Huddersfield man was booked shortly after for kicking the ball away, before the visitors were forced into an early change when Thomas Cruise replaced Craig Easton. The home side were now on the front foot and Westcarr flashed another effort wide just shy of the half-four after Terrell Forbes' cross and the former Notts County man then whipped in a dangerous corner, which Lester could only head wide.
But in spite of four additional minutes added on at the end of the first-half, the home side couldn't convert their dominance into goals. The Spireites needed to come out after the break with more urgency and they began the second period full of beans, as captain Hird forced Poke into a smart low save at his near post. Hird ended a three-year goal drought with two goals against York City and Wycombe Wanderers respectively, but when Chesterfield did finally take the lead in the 48th minute it was from an even more unlikely source.
One positive of the season so far has been that Wright's side have chipped in with goals from all over the park, so it would have been of great pleasure to the Dunfermline-born caretaker that it was youngster Darikwa who gave the home side a deserved lead three minutes after the restart when Westcarr slotted through an inch-perfect ball for the 20-year-old to coolly dispatch.
But incredibly, the lead would last barely 120 seconds when the visitors snatched a leveller via a freak goal. Ling's side had shown a real lack of adventure thus far, but they got themselves back on level terms when Trotman's footing gave way on a slippery surface and Howe was the grateful recipient as he galloped through to notch his sixth goal of the season so far.
It was back to square one for Town, but they responded through the lively Westcarr who fashioned himself a chance before curling just the wrong side of the upright. A succession of corners followed as the visitors once again came under a barrage of pressure - Atkinson's effort being diverted over before Talbot's mis-cued header - before Wright played his first hand by introducing debutant Evans in place of Talbot just after the hour.
Darikwa shuffled over to the left to try and give Kevin Nicholson a headache and the on-loan Rovers youngster was employed on the right, before two penalty shouts in a matter of seconds were waved away by Mr. Ilderton. Firstly, Lester looked to have been hauled down in the area when Atkinson's deflected pass dropped into his path, while at the other end, Danny Stevens' attempted cross appeared to strike Trotman's flailing arm.
Both of these sides had conjured up a remarkable 10 draws in 16 games between them this season and with 15 minutes left, it looked to be heading for another stalemate as Wright sent on Whitaker in place of Trotman and Hazel on for Westcarr, as he sought a fourth consecutive home win. Goalscorer Darikwa moved to right-back, with Forbes relocating inside but the home side couldn't muster up another chance and once again had to settle for a share of the spoils against a disciplined Torquay side.
Chesterfield (4-4-2) - O'Donnell; Forbes, Trotman (Whitaker 78), Hird (c), Ridehalgh; Darikwa, Atkinson, Togwell, Talbot (Evans 64); Westcarr (Hazel 89), Lester.
Unused Subs - Wilson, Allott, Clay, Wafula.
Bookings - Atkinson (24)
Goals - Darikwa (48)
Torquay United (4-2-3-1) - Poke; Oastler, Downes, Saah, Nicholson; Easton (Cruise 27), Mansell (c); Macklin (Thompson 71), Bodin, Stevens (Jarvis 77); Howe.
Unused Subs - Rice, Leadbitter, Yeoman, Mackenzie.
Bookings - Oastler (38)
Goals- Howe (50)
Referee - Mr. Eddie Ilderton
Attendance - 5,119 (221 away)