The Spireites came from behind and performed well to round-off their regular League One season with a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.Chesterfield will now play Preston North End in the play-off semi-finals, the home leg of which will be at the Proact on Thursday evening.
After the Spireites had set their stall out well early on, a flurry of Blades attacks threatened Tommy Lee's goal, McNulty forced a full-length save from the Spireites' 'keeper and after Sam Hird had gone within a hair's breadth of reaching Gary Roberts' centre four yards out, before United did take the lead.
Marc McNulty turned on a sixpence after 34 minutes and buried a thunderous 12-yard effort that gave Lee little chance.
Into the second half and the Spireites' minutes long push for a leveller bore fruit when Ian Evatt smashed home a back post header 53 minutes in after Dan Jones delivered an inch-perfect cross from the left, sending the Spireites behind that goal wild.
A whopping three and a half thousand Spireites made the short trip to potential play-off rivals Sheffield United for a rainy Sunday lunch time kick-off, as manager Paul Cook fielded the strongest possible eleven available to him in what could have been seen as a play-off dress rehearsal.
In a contest which promised to be a fascinating spectacle, it was the Spireites who made the brighter start of the two teams, as Dan Gardner was able to weave his way to the touchline before cutting back, but following Sam Hird’s dummy in the area, nobody was on hand to convert.
However, the fast paced beginning from the Spireites was matched just as well by the Blades, as after neat build up play down the left from Bob Harris, the ball found the feet of youngster Louis Reed who mustered up a deflected effort, but thankfully Tommy Lee punched the ball clear of danger.
Soon after it was Lee again who was maintaining Chesterfield’s clean sheet as forward McNulty released a cracker from 20 yards out, but after what looked to be a fine strike into the bottom corner from the striker, Lee was on hand to tip the effort wide of the goal.
Chances were few and far between at the Lane as both sides reluctantly being forced to try their luck from range, and after United centre back Jay McEveley slipped in possession, O’Shea picked up the ball and let fly, but Mark Howard handled well down low to his right.
The Spireites looked to build on O’Shea’s effort and moments later they were inches away from taking the lead, as the influential Gary Roberts skipped past two tackles on the left before cutting inside and delivering a near perfect ball for Hird, but he was only a spectator as the cross flashed across the face of the goal.
Following on from Chesterfield’s near miss, it was the Blades who managed to break the deadlock ten minutes before the break through a slice of fortune, as skipper and midfield general Doyle tried his luck from range, but his scuffed effort bobbled its way to the feet of McNulty as he made no mistake in smashing past Lee.
The Blades’ opener however did not upset the rhythm the Spireites had been building, as an instant leveller very nearly arrived seconds after McNulty’s goal, with O’Shea twisting and turning in United’s penalty area before drilling towards an unguarded back post, but Sam Clucas was unable to anticipate the strike.
Goals have not been hard to come by for the Spireites over the course of the rollercoaster this campaign has brought, and the visit to Bramall Lane proved to be no exception, as just minutes into the second half Chesterfield had levelled through a bullet header from Ian Evatt.
Dan Jones received the ball out on the left before digging out a teasing cross, and Evatt was there to power the ball into the back of the net.
The Spireites evidently had their tails up following the equaliser, and they nearly made it a quick fire double to turn the match on its head as Roberts picked out O’Shea on the left, and as the Irishman cut inside, his powerful effort only stung the palms of a diving Howard.
Chesterfield continued to attack in their pursuit of all three points as the travelling Spireites fans urged their men in blue forward, and the turn-around was nearly complete as Clucas brought down the in the area before hooking a shot goal wards, and with Howard stranded, a sliding Roberts failed to connect with the ball from a yard out.
The Spireites continued to press deep into stoppage time for a late winner, but after Tendayi Darikwa picked out the head of Clucas, the converted forward could only head over from the penalty spot, meaning Chesterfield are to entertain Preston North End in the lottery of the play-offs.
Sheffield United: Howard (gk), Brayford, Harris, McEveley, Freeman, Doyle (c) (Calvert-Lewin 59’), Scougall (Flynn 66’), Reed (Davies (82’), Baxter, Adams, McNulty
Unused subs: Alcock, Willis, Davies, Holt
Chesterfield: Lee (gk), Darikwa, Hird, Evatt, Jones, Morsy (c), Ryan, Roberts, O’Shea (Gnanduillet 85’), Gardner (Ariyibi 72’), Clucas
Unused subs: Carter, Humphreys, Raglan, Harrison, Banks
Sheffield United: McNulty 34'
Chesterfield: Evatt 51'
Attendance: 26,078 (3,397 away fans)