Striker Ched Evans scored on debut for Chesterfield as they came from a half-time deficit to claim a 1-1 draw away at Oxford United on Sky Bet League 1 opening day.
Wes Thomas gave the hosts a half-time lead when he tapped home after a Ryan Fulton parry, Evans equalising for the visitors after 76 minutes with a rasping low free kick from distance to secure a hard-earned point.
Ian Evatt made a good early interception as the hosts threatened to break through the centre of the Chesterfield rear-guard.
Oxford’s Wes Thomas found himself in space on the left-hand side of the penalty area and crossed to the far post but there was no-one there in support.
Jay O’Shea collected the ball and tried a shot from distance, but his effort was straight at keeper Simon Eastwood.
Ryan Taylor chested the ball into the path of Thomas who was promptly brought down by Charlie Raglan, who received a booking.
The resulting free kick was taken by Chris Maguire, whose effort went narrowly wide of Ryan Fulton’s left-hand post.
O’Shea’s chipped ball into the area nearly found Ched Evans, the ball drifting out of play.
The Spireites had a real let-off when Taylor was through inside the area, only to be let down by a a weak effort which was easily gathered bye Fulton.
Oxford were enjoying a decent spell of pressure. Liam Sercombe volleyed wide and then had an effort blocked by Raglan.
The opening goal came in the 31st minute when Alex MacDonald’s angled shot was parried by Fulton and the loose ball fell to the lurking Thomas had the simple task of firing into the empty net.
O’Shea received the ball on the edge of the ‘D’ and made a firm connection, but the ball flew well left of the target.
There was an enforced change for the home side five minutes before the break when Chey Dunkley limped off with Josh Ruffels taking his place.
Gary Liddle then failed to make the most of a free header from Jon Nolan’s corner, putting his effort wide.
The lively Thomas threatened inside the area, holding off a couple of challenges before firing in a low shot which was saved by Fulton.
Taylor was the next to pose a threat to the Chesterfield defence, trying a shot from just outside the area which went over.
Early after the re-start, Gboly Ariyibi used his pace and skill to find space down the right and sent over a good cross, but Liddle found himself crowded out inside the area and just failed to make proper contact.
Oxford then went close to extending their lead when Thomas beat Dion Donohue, advanced into the area and fired in a low shot which skimmed the outside of Fulton’s right-hand post.
Ariyibi’s volley lacked power when he got on the end of a ball into the area from Donohue as the Spireites during a spell when the Spireites stepped up a gear.
There was a great chance when O’Shea found Evans with a good ball into the area and the striker got his shot on target but Eastwood was equal to it, turning the ball wide.
The pair linked up well again when O’Shea slipped the ball through to Evans who sliced his shot wide from the left-hand side of the area, under pressure from a defender.
The hosts made a second change when Tyler Roberts came on in place of Maguire.
Raglan came to Chesterfield’s rescue with a brave clearance off the line from Sercombe’s shot.
Danny Wilson made his first change of the afternoon when Rai Simons joined the action as a replacement for Gardner.
Evans threatened again when he did well to turn and beat a defender, but his touch was heavy and a grateful Eastwood gathered the ball.
Evans did find the net in the 76th minute when he drilled a 30-yard free kick into the bottom right-hand corner of Eastwood’s net to make it all-square.
Roberts got a shot on target from inside the area, but the effort lacked the pace and direction to trouble Fulton, who made an easy save.
Evans was taken off with a couple of minutes remaining with fellow summer recruit Kristian Dennis taking his place.
In stoppage time, Dennis tried a long-range shot but he was unable to get enough power behind it and the ball trickled harmlessly into Eastwood’s hands.
Oxford United: Eastwood (gk) - Skarz, Lundstram (c), Nelson, Sercombe, Thomas, Maguire (Roberts 65'), MacDonald, Taylor, Long, Dunkley (Ruffels 40')
Subs not used: Buchel, Crowley, Hemmings, Rothwell, Welch-Hayes
Chesterfield: Fulton (gk) - Donohue, Evatt, Raglan, McGinn - Gardner (Simons 67'), Liddle (c), Nolan, Ariyibi - O'Shea, Evans (Dennis 88')
Subs not used: Allinson (gk), Mitchell, Diimaio, Maguire, Daly
Oxford United: Thomas 31'
Chesterfield: Evans 76'
Attendance: 8,679 (872 away fans)