Chesterfield manager Jack Lester declared himself pleased with his team’s work, after they progressed into the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy following a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Manchester City U21s at the Proact last night.
Substitute Joe Rowley opened the scoring in normal time, before the visitors – who were reduced to 10 men after Charlie Oliver was sent off – hit back through Ed Francis’ free kick and Lukas Nmecha’s 90th minute goal.
Chris O’Grady then equalised for Town in stoppage time to send the match into penalties, where after Joe Anyon saved Demeaco Duhaney’s spot-kick and Tyreke Wilson put his penalty wide, Town captain Sam Hird calmly converted his penalty to send his team through as Northern Group F runners-up and book an away tie with Fleetwood Town next week.
Speaking exclusively to iFollow, Lester said: “It certainly was eventful with all sorts of stuff going on but we’re pleased to go through.
“When it goes to penalties it is a lottery and they held their nerve and went through – that was the idea at the start of the night and we have.
“I thought it [the performance] was ok, in the second half I thought that we played well, we got a goal up and probably should have got another few and been out of sight. There was some good football at times, in the first half I thought that there wasn’t a lot in it and apart from their goals I don’t think they’ve troubled us at all game – so it was disappointing – but all in all it was a good night.”
Substitute Rowley scored with his first touch after replacing Diego De Girolamo, with a fine header after Jerome Binnom-Williams’ cross.
That goal made it two in two goals for the 18-year-old after his strike against Mansfield Town last weekend and Lester hailed his impact.
“He did great,” he said. “One goal releases his confidence and shows that he can do it, so it’s important that he stays on the goal trail.
“He’s adding goals to his game now which is exciting.”
O’Grady also found himself on the scoresheet last night, with a well taken finish after Bradley Barry’s cross. It was the former Brighton and Hove Albion man’s second of the season and Lester praised the forward’s composure in front of goal after he also scored a penalty in the shoot-out.
He said: “I thought that was great and he was really calm when he took his penalty. He played his part in scoring goals that got us through.
“It was a difficult finish at the end and it was a great finish, it’s not an easy finish on your left side but he smashed it and it was an important goal for us.”
O’Grady and De Girolamo were two of four changes made to the starting XI following the draw at the One Call Stadium, with Laurence Maguire and Connor Dimaio also coming back into the side and the manager gave his reasons for bringing those players in to the team for Ian Evatt, Kristian Dennis, Robbie Weir and Rowley.
“[I wanted to] freshen it up,” he explained. “The lads who came in have been training well so they deserved their chance, so we changed it around a little bit.
“I don’t think Laurence put a foot wrong all night, he was excellent. Chris scored a goal and his penalty, Diego was a threat and Connor came in and kept the ball moving, he did well as the sitter. All four of them can be pleased with their performances.”
There was one sour note to the match for the Spireites, with Jak McCourt limping off injured in the second half, though Lester admitted that the in-form midfielder’s injury doesn’t look to be as bad as first feared.
“The doctor’s had a look at it and he doesn’t think that it’s too bad,” Lester said. “We’ll ice it down and the morning and see how it is.”
Last night’s victory was enough for Town to secure a trip to Sky Bet League One side Fleetwood in the second round, which will be played next Tuesday, December 5, one that Lester and his team are looking forward to.
“It’ll be tough game, they’re a very good side but we will be ready,” he added.