Talbot Screamer Stuns Brewers
Chesterfield's season refused to lay down and die as Drew Talbot's goal of the season contender gave the Spireites another 1-0 win on their travels against promotion-chasing Burton Albion.
Talbot's wonder strike seven minutes after the break gave the visitors the lead, when he cut inside from left and unleashed an unstoppable thunderbolt from 30-yards that left Albion goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson clutching at thin air and sent a vociferous travelling contingent into delirium behind the goal.
It moved Paul Cook's side to within just seven points of the League Two play-off picture with promotion rivals Port Vale, Bradford City, Fleetwood Town and Exeter City still to play as Town ensured their hopes of an immediate return to the third tier will go right to the wire.
The Spireites made the short journey to Staffordshire with their play-off hopes almost extinguished after a heart-wrenching 2-1 defeat against struggling Torquay United at Plainmoor last time out. Two goals inside the opening nine minutes condemned Paul Cook's side to defeat in spite of Liam Cooper's late consolation and the Liverpudlian made just the solitary change from the defeat on the English Riviera, replacing club captain Sam Hird with Mark Randall in midfield while French-born striker Armand Gnanduillet returned to the bench.
The Spireites found themselves 10 points adrift of seventh placed Exeter City at kick-off with a game in hand, after the Grecians were beaten by local rivals Plymouth Argyle earlier in the afternoon. The Brewers, meanwhile, have been the division's surprise package this season with Gary Rowett defying both the odds and wage budget with his side currently occupying fourth having played a game less than Northampton Town.
The hosts have won their last nine games on home soil and trail the Cobblers by just two points, but they were held to a 1-1 draw at Victoria Road in their last outing and it was the visitors who nearly struck first inside the opening two minutes when Conor Townsend stung the palms of Tomlinson after Jay O'Shea was hauled down on the edge of the box.
Town had already begun the game with more purpose than against the Gulls, attempting to move the ball quickly on a slick surface and former Gunner Randall was predictably the architect in midfield as his clip forward seeking lone-wolf Marc Richards was scrambled away.
But the home side responded through former Tottenham Hotspur youngster Jacques Maghoma who has lit the division alight this season with his trailblazing displays on the Brewers' left, but his first effort of the game cannoned off the roof of the away end after he had drifted inside to let fly just before the quarter-hour. Nonetheless, it remained a reminder of the Congolese winger's eye for goal after an impressive haul of 14 so far this campaign.
Alex MacDonald was next to fire a warning sign across Tommy Lee's goal as he flashed a vicious free-kick across the six-yard box, while at the other end Tendayi Darikwa fluffed his lines after skipping into the penalty area. The game remained even midway through the first period, but there were signs that Rowett's charges were beginning to get on top as Robbie Weir headed MacDonald's cross over after ghosting into the penalty area.
If there has been a criticism of Chesterfield's inconsistent season, particularly on the road, it has been that Town haven't been able to grind out more results from such contests but they were managing to withstand Albion's advances as Billy Kee's free-kick was charged down and Ian Sharps couldn't divert his header on target.
And eight minutes before the break, the visitors bad their most promising opening when Darikwa slipped the former Port Vale striker Richards through but, perhaps a little shy on confidence, he elected to attempt on audacious lob from 30-yards with Tomlinson back-pedalling rather than drive at goal.
Just as the temperature began to drop as the sun ebbed behind the clouds at the Pirelli Stadium, so did the tempo but the hosts were extremely fortunate to keep all 11 men on the pitch a minute before the break when Sharps clipped the heels of Richards as he was bearing down on goal but referee Me. Lee Collins only brandished a booking to leave Cook incensed in the technical area.
It was to be the last action of a rather drab encounter so far, but the visitors again settled quickly after the restart and the game sparkled into life via the boot of Talbot.
The former Luton Town man had been relatively ineffective until now, but after finding space on the left he was urged to shoot by the away fans behind the goal and he duly obliged, sending an absolute rocket into the top corner.
It was a bolt from the blue and it had a visibly negative effect on promotion-chasing Albion as the hot-headed Billy Kee was booked for a flailing arm on Cooper shortly afterwards.
But it was the visitors, now orchestrated by O'Shea, who looked like doubling their lead as the Irishman set Richards free on the right but his low cross was turned behind by Anthony O'Connor with Talbot in waiting.
Rowett sent on Matt Paterson with his side seeking an equaliser and Lee Bell should have hauled his side level after Kee somehow brought one down from the sky but the former Crewe Alexandra man couldn't steer his powerful drive beneath the crossbar.
The home side were turning the screw now, desperate not to see their season render fruitless after so much promise, but they were beginning to feel the pressure as the visitors battened down the hatches.
Cook threw Gnanduillet and Hird on to secure the spoils as the away fans cheered every complete pass from their side, before the Ivorian international and Weir exchanged bookings in stoppage time.
But the visitors held on with ease to keep themselves in contention with six games remaining in April.
Chesterfield - (4-2-3-1) Lee; Brindley, Cooper (c), Trotman, Townsend; Randall, Togwell; Darikwa, Talbot, O'Shea (Hird 88); Richards (Gnanduillet 85).
Subs not used - Barrington, Henshall, Whitaker, Lester, Clay.
Bookings - Gnanduillet (90)
Goals - Talbot (52).
Burton Albion (4-4-2) - Tomlinson; O'Connor, Diamond (c), Sharps, McCrory; MacDonald (Drury 85), Bell, Weir, Maghoma (Phillips 77); Kee, Symes (Paterson 68).
Subs not used - Corbett, Lyness, Holness, Dyer.
Bookings - Sharps (44), Kee (61), Weir (90).
Goals - N/A
Attendance - 3,823.
Referee - Mr. Lee Collins.