Chesterfield 1-1 Lincoln City
Chesterfield’s youth team had to come from a goal down to share the spoils with Lincoln City after an entertaining match in their final fixture of the season.
The Spireites fell behind in the first minute when Imps midfielder Matt Cotton won a penalty that was converted by Jordan Thomas. Striker Bradley Bowland equalised, winning a spot-kick he put away in the 28th minute.
Manager Dave Bentley was forced into a number of changes as captain Jack Broadhead, midfielders Joshua Scully, Mark Fereday and Oliver Brock were injured and striker Fabien Johnson missed the match through illness. Under-16 players Mitchell Mullins and Lewis Sugden slotted into midfield, Regan Edridge replaced Broadhead in defence and there was also a place in the line-up for striker Joe Mathers.
The Imps took the lead after some poor defending. The back four failed to clear the ball and Cotton ran into the box and managed to get past defender Jordan Slack, who caught him with an outstretched foot. Thomas slotted the ball past keeper Cameron Mason to make it a nightmare start for the young Spireites.
The goal seemed to shock Bentley’s young side and they were handed another blow as Edridge was forced to go off injured in the 22ndminute. Defender Tom Colton, who has been out injured for most of the season, replaced him.
Midfielder Cormac Noel did well to create space on the edge of the box before unleashing a long-range effort which went wide of the target. Chesterfield otherwise found it difficult to create chances in the final third against a well organised defence.
The visitors were cruising in the first half but they were pegged back in contentious circumstances. A corner from midfielder Alex Hewitt was whipped in the box and keeper Henry Smith collected the ball, but referee Freeman pointed to the spot to the surprise of the Spireites after Bowland was challenged. Bowland levelled the scores with a confident penalty.
The Spireites almost took the lead after some excellent build up play. Mullins and Noel played the ball nicely between them before Bowland received the ball but his effort sailed harmlessly over the bar.
In the final few minutes of the half, City almost grabbed the lead after midfielders Kegan Everington and Rob Smith played some neat football before the ball fell to striker Alex Simmons but he shot wide to the relief of Mason.
After the re-start City continued to attack and should have taken the lead but Mason made a superb reaction save. A deep cross by Simmons found Thomas at the far post and despite a powerful header Mason made himself big and the danger was cleared.
Minutes later the Spireites pressed forward and had a penalty appeal turned down. As Bowland chased the ball down it appeared to hit the outstretched arm of defender Callum Ward after the ball bobbled up but the referee waved away the strong protests.
The pacy Thomas and Simmons caused the Spireites all sorts of problems and they created further chances for the hosts. Mason was called into action again as he denied Cotton and substitute Niall Harper.
As the pressure mounted, Bentley responded just under the hour-mark as he introduced Ben Partridge and Jake Beesley for Noel and Mathers.
Bowland, who was the main threat for Chesterfield, almost grabbed his second of the match after the ball fell to him in a promising area on the edge of the box but his dipping volley went over the bar.
A dangerous free-kick was curled into the box by Cotton who picked out Ward for a free header but Mason thwarted Ward. The Spireites launched an excellent counter-attack which resulted in Bowland’s long-range effort missing the target.
Both teams desperately tried to get the decisive goal and the game became stretched. The impressive Sugden picked up the ball deep in midfield and shrugged off a challenge before trying a shot that went wide and both sides had to settle for a point.
It has been a difficult season for the young Spireites who haven’t won in their last five matches and manager Bentley summed up his frustration after the match.
He said: “The thing of our season has been inconsistency. At the beginning of the campaign we started off really brightly, getting a point at Doncaster and then after Christmas we really didn’t really get going.”
Chesterfield: Mason; Slack, Edridge (Colton 22), Whittaker, McNicholas; Mullins, Hewitt, Sugden; Noel (Partridge 58), Mathers (Beesley 58), Bowland
Unused sub: Alexander