On Saturday 9th March 2013, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Bristol Rovers in League 2.
After a weekend off, it was time to return to the Proact Stadium for the visit of Bristol Rovers. This was very much a mid table clash with the sides sitting in 14th and 15th position respectively. However, the Pirates were very much on the up having won four of their last seven matches, including comfortable victories in their last two matches, and they were rapidly moving up the table having sat in bottom place earlier in the season. In contrast, it was a frustrating time for Chesterfield with just a single win in the last five games and scoring just once in the process – an own goal!
Spireites manager Paul Cook made two changes to the side that had been cruelly defeated by a stoppage time goal at Cheltenham Town last weekend. The injured Drew Talbot was replaced by January signing Richard Brindley in defence while Jack Lester took Marc Richards place in the starting eleven. For Bristol Rovers, John Ward made just one change from the 2-0 win against Exeter City with Joe Anyinsah replacing Ellis Harrison.
It was a chilly afternoon in Derbyshire and the first half did little to warm up the 4,814 supporters in attendance as the chances were few and far between. Rovers started slightly stronger and Eliot Richards was just inches from opening scoring early on when he fired a powerful strike which beat Tommy Lee before smashing off the inside of the post.
John-Joe O’Toole fired the ball well off target before Sam Hird forced a save at the other end with a close range header. Ivorian striker Armand Gnanduillet then charged forward, beating a couple of players, before sending a shot straight in to the arms of Steve Mildenhall.
The game sprung in to life at the start of the second period when Jay O’Shea opened the scoring with a wonderful strike and brought Chesterfield’s goal drought to an end in the process. A corner was only half cleared by the Pirates defence and the ball fell to the Irishman, who took a touch before firing the ball in to the top corner.
The visitors rarely looked like scoring in the second half against one of the most miserly defences in the football league. A hopeful long range effort from Oliver Norburn showed their frustration as it flew well off target.
Meanwhile, the goal appeared to breathe new life in to the Spireites and Jack Lester came agonisingly close to doubling the advantage. Conor Townsend’s corner was flicked on by a Rovers defender and found Lester, who directed the ball just wide of the post.
With 17 minutes to play, the result was put beyond doubt when Gnanduillet made it 2-0 to the Spireites. The 6ft4 striker picked up the ball near the corner flag, twisted and turned past a couple of defenders before somehow poking the ball into the net from the narrowest of angles.
O’Shea nearly grabbed his second goal of the game late on when he fired another shot from the edge of the area but this time it was tipped over by the goalkeeper and the score remained 2-0 until the final whistle.
The result saw the Spireites move back in to the top half of the table and they are now 9 points off the play offs with nine games to go. While finishing in the top seven is still a long shot for Chesterfield, the three points today keep the dream alive for at least a little while longer. Meanwhile, Rovers fall to 17th place after this defeat but they remain 8 points clear of the relegation zone which means relegation is unlikely for the Pirates.
After the game, I was allowed to go in to the press room to watch the post match press conferences. I saw Bristol Rovers manager John Ward and Spireites goalkeeper Tommy Lee speak to the press before finally Paul Cook came in to give his thoughts on the game. The Liverpudlian was obviously very upbeat after seeing his side win comfortably and he said that he still believes the club can reach the play offs this season.
Chesterfield 2-0 Bristol Rovers
O’Shea ’53, Gnanduillet ’73Lee, Smith, Trotman, Brindley, Cooper, Hird, Townsend (Whitaker ’86), Togwell, O’Shea, Lester (Darikwa ’73), Gnanduillet (Richards ’80) Mildenhall, Smith, Woodards (Hitchcock ’54), Parks, Brown, McChrystal, Norburn, O’Toole, Richards, Anyinsah (Broghammer ’46), Brunt (Tounkara ’72) Attendance: 4,814