In torrential rain at Spotland, a youthful Spireites side slipped out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the second round stage after a 2-1 loss to Rochdale.Rochdale started the brighter and after 18 minutes had the lead. Left-bacK Scott Tanser burst into the box and struck low and with power but received some good fortune as a flicked deflection took the ball up and past Tommy Lee to hand the hosts the lead.
Midway through the second half and two goals came in a matter of moments. First substitute Sylvan Ebanks-Blake centred low and Ashley Eastham bundled into his own net, then from the restart Lewis Alessandra restored the home lead with a neat finish after Lee had saved well.
The Spireites made five changes to the side that beat Crewe on Saturday. Drew Talbot, Dion Donohue, Armand Gnandulliet and Jake Orrell all came in, while Sam Hird returned to captained the side with Sam Morsy suspended.
The Spireites were looking to get beyond the second round of the competition for the first time since 2013/14, the season in which they beat Rochdale 3-0 in the Northern Area quarter finals.
The game started with the home side on the front foot, with wingers Peter Vincenti and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing looking dangerous, and it was Rochdale that carved out the first chance of the match. Donal McDermott cut inside from the right and found Alessandra. He played a neat one-two with Matty Lund, but his goal-bound shot was deflected over the top.
Former Spireite McDermott looked lively, and showed glimpses reminiscent of his strong performance when the two sides met at the Proact earlier in the season.
After the early pressure they put on Chesterfield, Rochdale went ahead just after the quarter of an hour mark. Neat play in the midfield area saw the ball played into Tanser, his low left-footed effort looped over the helpless Lee via a huge deflection to give the hosts the lead.
Chesterfield then began to grow into the game, with Gnandulliet seeing more of the ball up front.
However, the hosts almost doubled their lead within a few minutes. Vincenti’s dangerous cross saw Lee miss the ball as he tried to punch it away, but Mendez-Laing could only head over at the far post.
The chances kept coming for the hosts, who found the slick playing surface to their liking, with Alessandra drawing a brilliant block from Charlie Raglan.
Chesterfield were hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and Dale had a golden chance to make it 2-0 before half time. Mendez-Laing got to the by-line and pulled it back; both McDermott and Alessandra mistimed their shots, only for Vincenti to eventually fire over the bar.
On the stroke of half time the Spireites had a rare opportunity to get the ball into the box. Dale substitute Rhys Bennett was booked for pulling down Dan Jones. However, Liam O’Neil’s free kick from a crossing position sailed into the grateful gloves of Lillis.
After a lacklustre first half Dean Saunders rang the changes, with Jay O’Shea and Ebanks-Blake coming on for Talbot and Gnandulliet respectively.
The changes seemed to give the Spireites an added edge up front, first Rai Simons would have been in on goal but for a last ditch tackle, and Mani Dieseruwe was inches away from getting on the end of Ebanks-Blake’s teasing cross.
At the other end Mendez-Laing worked his way inside and was given time to size-up a swerving shot at goal, which was gathered at the second attempt by Lee.
The ball was then soon in the net again; however, McDermott’s effort was ruled out for an offside. He squeezed the ball past an advancing Lee and played a nice one-two with Alessandra before dinking over Raglan on the line, only to see the assistant’s flag go up.
O’Shea coming on for the Spireites saw him bring a real calming influence to the midfield, as Chesterfield began to see much more of the ball in advanced positions. Yet at the other end, Mendez-Laing ran clean through the Spireites’ midfield before shooting low at goal, forcing a good reaction save from Lee.
Just past the hour mark Chesterfield’s new-found attacking threat paid dividends as they scored the equaliser. Good work from O’Shea saw him play in Ebanks-Blake on the right, he fired a low ball across the face of goal, and amidst a crowd of bodies on the line the ball went in, with the final touch coming from Dale defender Eastham.
The match wasn’t level for long however, and the home side were soon back in front. Barely a minute had passed before Alessandra fired inside Lee’s near post after having his initial effort well saved.
After coming to terms with the second Rochdale goal, Chesterfield soon found their feet again. O’Shea, who now seemed to be at the centre of everything his side were creating, saw his free kick from wide on the left well saved by Lillis.
Rochdale then saw the game out, and much like the rain, dampened any threat they had at Spotland.
Jake Orrell saw a cheeky lob saved by Lillis, while Dieseruwe saw a glorious chance go begging in the dying minutes. Ollie Banks’ beautiful cross from the right was headed inches wide by the forward.
With the Spireites pushing bodies forward they became susceptible to the counter attack, and almost conceded a third.
First, Alessandra failed to connect with the ball when Vincenti squared him the ball, before he forced another magnificent save from Lee.
The hosts played out the game to claim the victory, and with it a place in the Northern Area quarter finals.
Rochdale: Lillis (gk) - McNulty, Eastham, Vincenti (c), Lund, Alessandra, McDermott (Barry-Murphy, 85'), Tanser, Mendez-Laing, Cannon (Bennett 21', Noble-Lazarus 53'), Camps
Subs not used: Diba Musanga (gk), Hooper
Chesterfield: Lee (gk) - Jones, Raglan, Hird, Talbot (O'Shea 46') - O'Neil, Donohue, Orrell, Simons (Banks 79'), Dieseruvwe - Gnanduillet (Ebanks-Blake 46')
Subs not used: Cairns (gk), Humphreys
Rochdale: Tanser 18', Alessandra 67'
Chesterfield: Eastham 66' (og)