A second half Rochdale goal condemned Chesterfield to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Spotland, their fourth straight loss.While the first half was goalless, the Spireites got stronger and stronger as the period progressed.
Peter Vincenti had a great chance with a header for the Dale, but with Gary Roberts winning a header but putting in too close to the 'keeper and pulling the strings Chesterfield were just a goal away from a very impressive 45 minutes.
After the break Armand Gnanduillet flicked an Ollie Banks centre wide before Rochdale took the lead when Ian Henderson stole in to flick a free kick past Tommy Lee.
The Spireites were hoping to bounce back quickly from three straight defeats, the latest a 2-0 reversal at Glanford Park in midweek where they put in an improved performance but one that hadn’t quite recaptured the earlier season buzz.
Manager Paul Cook knew that Rochdale would pose a strong threat, despite a blip in their own form. At kick-off they were just four points behind the Spireites with three games in hand, as a result of an impressive cup run and a pitch that struggles to cope with both football and rugby.
Cook was pleased to welcome back Roberts to the Spotland starting eleven along with Gnanduillet and Banks, meaning Jay O’Shea, Ritchie Humphreys and Byron Harrison stood aside. Gboly Ariyibi was rewarded for his promising display at Scunthorpe by retaining his starting berth.
The teams kicked off in almost biblical weather, initially rain followed by hail adding to the numbing cold - the Spireites in all white fitted in well with the conditions.
It took a few minutes to establish but the Spireites were trialling a 4-3-3 formation with Gnanduillet, Ariyibi and Roberts taking forward the initiative and looking lively.
An early knock produced an early substitution as Rochdale captain Oliver Lancashire made way for Ashley Eastham. Moments later Dale wasted a real gilt-edged opening when Tom Kennedy provided the perfect ball in from the left but top scorer Vincenti headed wastefully over.
The Spireites should have made more of a great 25th minute opening. Roberts fed Ryan on the right who took the ball to the byline and provided a teasing cross that unfortunately couldn’t find a taker.
Roberts was again the inventor as he set up Darikwa on the right, his great ball in found Ariyibi who was unable to retain control.
Just after the half hour mark Roberts provided a moment of magic when his stunning angled cross-field pass to Ariyibi found his man perfectly, but a poor touch meant the move came to nothing.
Dale’s Ian Henderson had a great opening when he burst through but failed to capitalise in a one-on-one with Tommy Lee. Moments later a strong challenge from Morsy in the area on Stephen Dawson brought a half-hearted appeal but referee Coote took no action.
Ariyibi wasted a great run on the left as he sought out Gnanduillet at the far post but his cross failed to find the man but missed an ever better placed Roberts who was perfectly positioned centrally. Ariyibi showed his pace again down the left, took the ball to the byline with Dale were happy to concede the flag kick that produced no further threat.
Gnanduillet failed to capitalise on a neat free kick from Gary Roberts after the break. 'Keeper Lillis collected at his feet as he couldn’t maintain control.
Vincenti again spurned a great opening when Henderson’s ball from the right found him perfectly but he header well wide of the left upright.
Moments later the Spireites were similarly profligate. Gnanduillet could only get the lightest of touches to a superb ball in from Banks.
Bunney then burst through into the area for Rochdale but Lee was alert enough to get the better of the one-on-one.
Dale then took the lead on 64 minutes when free kick from Rose on the right kept low and Henderson got the touch to poke home under the body of Lee.
O’Shea replaced Ariyibi moments later before Gnanduillet was unable to get direction to his header from O’Shea’s free kick from the right.
Lavery went close in the four minutes of added time, but despite a powerful angled strike, Lillis was able to make the save and end the Spireites' chances for the afternoon.
Rochdale: Lillis (gk), Raferty, Lancashire (c) (Eastman 12'), Vincenti, Dawson (Hery 46'), O'Connell, Rose, Logan Kennedy, Bunney, Henderson
Subs not used: Diba Musangu (gk), Brandy, Noble-Lazarus, Cannon, Bell
Chesterfield: Lee (gk) - Darikwa, Hird, Carter, Clucas - Morsy (c), Ryan, Banks (Duffy 81'), Roberts (Lavery 78'), Ariyibi (O'Shea 65') - Gnanduillet
Subs not used: Chapman (gk), Humphreys, Raglan, Harrison
Rochdale: Henderson 64'
Attendance: 2967 (558 away fans)