Chesterfield had to settle for a Boxing Day draw as a spirited 10-man Hartlepool came away with a share of the spoils in a keenly fought encounter.
Tendayi Darikwa gave the Spireites the lead in the first half but Matty Dolan’s penalty two minutes into the second half secured a point for Pools.
Andy Monkhouse was sent off for the visitors midway through the second half but the Spireites unfortunately couldn’t find a winning goal. The result keeps the North Derbyshire side at the top of the League 2 table.
Chesterfield headed into the fixture making only one change to the side that beat Exeter on Friday night. Armand Gnanduillet recovered from his knock and returned to the starting line up, replacing Sheffield United loanee, Callum McFadzean.
Ritchie Humphreys was making his first appearance against the side that he served for 12 years and was given a round of applause from the Hartlepool faithful just before the game.
It took a while for the first opportunity of the game to come and it was the visitors that had it. Luke James swivelled on the edge of the area but Tommy Lee plucked it out the air to save well.
The game then started to open up and Chesterfield came inches from opening the lead through Gnanduillet. Darikwa intelligently pulled the ball back for the Frenchman but Hartlepool defender Jack Baldwin somehow managed to get his head on the ball to keep it out.
The Spireites were in the ascendency and again, Gnanduillet’s presence was causing the threat. This time the tall striker found space in the area but he dragged his effort wide of Scott Flinders’ goal.
Just before the half hour mark, Eoin Doyle unleashed a strike from 25 yards which had Pools goalkeeper scrambling but it unfortunately fell just wide.
It didn’t take long after that for the Spireites to take the lead. Marc Richards produced a pinpoint cross onto the foot of Darikwa who controlled his volley into the bottom corner past the goalkeeper to put the Spireites ahead.
Chances became limited after the goal with Gnanduillet’s speculative effort from the left hand side the only opportunity for either side.
Five minutes of additional time in the first half seemed to inspire the away side as they almost drew level. Monkhouse was presented with a chance 12 yards from goal but his scuffed effort fell straight into the hands of Lee.
Skipper Ian Evatt had a chance deep into added on time, but his shot from a corner went through everyone and past Flinders’ far post.
Chesterfield’s second half started in the worst possible as Sam Hird was adjudged to have pulled down James Poole as he raced down on goal and the referee awarded a spot kick. Defender Dolan stepped up and although Lee dived the right way, the 'keeper couldn’t keep out the strike and Pools were level.
The home side went in search of a response and almost got it had it not been for the head of Christian Burgess. Flinders raced out of his area but miss-kicked the clearance straight to Gnanduillet who guided it towards goal but Burgess’ head got in the way of the goal-bound shot.
With the game at a frantic pace, both sides were having opportunities at either end. Darikwa was booked on 65 minutes and soon after, Gnanduillet was replaced by Jay O’Shea.
With more than 20 minutes of the game remaining, Monkhouse was dismissed for two yellow cards. His first came as he was adjudged to have dived in the area and only a couple of minutes later, the midfielder elbowed Drew Talbot from behind and the referee brandished another yellow.
The red card didn’t seem to deter Hartlepool and goalscorer Dolan almost put the visitors ahead. His shot from long range had Lee scrambling, but fortunately for Chesterfield, it went the wrong side of the post.
The Spireites made their second change of the afternoon on 75 minutes as Doyle was replaced by Gary McSheffrey.
Only a minute later, Richards picked up the ball in a promising area, he drove at the defence but his shot just dragged wide of Flinders’ goal.
The Spireites were huffing and puffing in search of the winning goal with O’Shea and Evatt both having efforts late on, but they couldn’t break down the stubborn Pools defence.
Lee had to be alert right at the end of the game as a glorious strike from Hartlepool striker James saw the goalkeeper pull off a superb diving save at full stretch to preserve a point for both sides.
Chesterfield: Lee; Talbot, Evatt (c), Hird, Humphreys; Darikwa, Banks, Togwell (Cooper 80'), Doyle (McSheffrey 76'); Richards, Gnanduillet (O'Shea 66').
Subs: Mason, Brown, Smith, McFadzean.
Hartlepool United: Austin, Dolan, Baldwin, Franks (Rodney 86'), Monkhouse, Compton (Poole 18'), Duckworth, James, Burgess, Walker.
Subs: Collins, Walton, Rafferty, Sweeney, Holden.
Goals: Chesterfield (Darikwa 30') 1 - 1 Hartlepool United (Dolan PEN 48')
Attendance: 7,680 (588 Hartlepool United)