Chesterfield came from behind to claim a crucial 2-1 victory away at Hartlepool United and strengthen their charge for automatic Sky Bet League 2 promotion.
A sublime Eoin Doyle strike just after half time proved to be the winner after Liam Cooper had earlier cancelled out Luke James’ opener at Victoria Park.
The match, like all those across the country, kicked off seven minutes late, in remembrance of the Hillsborough Disaster. After the impeccably observed minute’s silence both teams’ focus switched to the crucial three points on offer.
The travelling Spireites, in their black change strip, were keen to get off to a good start, with early crosses from Danny Kearns and the returning Dan Gardner testing the handling of Pools ‘keeper Andy Rafferty.
Like their guests, Hartlepool were looking to play open attacking football and Tommy Lee showed similarly steady hands in claiming a Pools corner when under pressure. Jack Compton soon fired over for the hosts who twenty minutes in were giving as good as they were getting.
Dan Gardner, making his first appearance since getting injured at Accrington, went closest yet when his right-wing cross looped over the ‘keeper and bounced back into play off the top of the bar. A minute later Sam Morsy turned on the edge of the box but saw his shot blocked.
However, it was the home side who took the lead midway through the half. Striker Luke James found space in the box after being played through, cut inside and finished past Lee to put Hartlepool ahead.
The onus was now fully on Chesterfield and after a period of pressure they had their equaliser on 30 minutes. A corner from the right was directed to a huddle of players at the back post and as the ball fell in the six-yard box Liam Cooper was on hand to flick the loose ball home.
Two minutes later the Spireite defender’s goal was almost in vain as only a goal-line clearance prevented Hartlepool’s Scott Harrison from scoring with a header. At the other end Ben Smith scooped an angled effort well over when moving inside from the left.
With time ticking down before the break Morsy was again at the heart of the action, scrapping his way past his man before mishitting his shot high and wide.
The visitors were now in the ascendancy and a flowing attacking move fed Gardner down the right, with his cutback finding Kearns in space on the penalty spot. However, with time to steady himself the midfielder could only scuff his shot and the danger was cleared.
Barely had the second period got underway and the Spireites had turned the match around, Eoin Doyle scoring an exquisite second. Kearns spread the play from the left and Gardner played the ball back to Doyle just inside the corner of the area and without hesitation the Irishman lifted up a first time shot that sailed magnificently into the far side of the net.
After 57 minutes Gary Roberts came on to replace Gardner, who was cramping up after his injury layoff. Straight into the thick of things, Roberts fired in a cross that found Doyle at the back post, with Pools defenders scrambling to get the ball away.
Roberts was soon at it again, his shot rebounding to Doyle who controlled his shot but put it just the wrong side of the upright. Ritchie Humphrey then entered to a hero’s reception from the home fans, wanting to pay tribute to their ‘player of the century’.
Hartlepool brought on two subs to try and get back on level terms but had little in terms of chances, full back Michael Duckworth skying a volley from 20 yards out. Harrison soon had a better chance for the home side, his goal-bound shot blocked by Marlon Harewood, his own teammate.
The Spireites were now content to put their foot on the ball and take advantage of opportunities coming their way, and one did when Doyle intercepted possession but slashed his shot well wide when charging into the box.
With five minutes left to go, Doyle passed through to Armand Granduillet, ten yards from goal. The substitute fired low and hard but Pools ‘keeper Rafferty got down quickly to make a good save.
The fourth official indicated four minutes of extra time and despite some nervy moments Chesterfield held on to collect their first away three points since late February, putting pressure on the league’s top two and increasing their lead over Fleetwood Town in the automatic promotion spots.
Hartlepool United: Rafferty, Duckworth, Collins (c), Harrison, Holden, Walton, Walker (Oliver 80'), Compton (Franks 62'), Barmby (Poole 61'), Harewood, James.
Subs not used: Flinders, Richards, Jones, Hawkins.
Chesterfield: Lee; Darikwa, Evatt (c), Cooper, Smith; Gardner (Roberts 58'), Morsy, Hird, Kearns (Humphreys 61'); Richards (Gnanduillet 81'), Doyle.
Subs not used: Dunbavin, Togwell, O'Shea, Beesley.
Hartlepool United: James 24'.
Chesterfield: Cooper 30', Doyle 48'.
Attendance: 3,778 (553 Chesterfield)