On Saturday 14th December 2013, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield face Plymouth Argyle in League 2.
On this chilly December afternoon, John Sheridan made his second return to the place where he led Chesterfield to the League 2 title in 2011. The current Plymouth boss took charge of the Spireites for three years and was one of the most successful managers in the clubs history, guiding them to the league title as well as a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory at Wembley. However, following a relegation and a poor start to the following campaign he had been sacked by the club. His first return to the Proact last season saw him lead Argyle to a 2-1 victory, so Chesterfield were desperately hoping to get one over their old boss this time around.
Sheridan’s side came in to the game on the back of an FA Cup victory against non-league Welling United, while Chesterfield’s previous game had also seen them victorious in a cup competition – defeating Oldham in the JPT Area Semi Final. However, neither the league leaders nor today’s visitors had picked up a league victory since November 23rd and so both were hoping to get back to winning ways.
There were a trio of changes to the Spireites eleven from midweek. Matty Brown made his CFC debut at centre back and there was a rare start for Sam Togwell who replaced the injured Jimmy Ryan in midfield. Argyle also made three changes to their team, including a place back in the line up for Romuald Boco – a rumored summer transfer target for Chesterfield.
The home side started the game strongly and broke the deadlock inside ten minutes. Ritchie Humphreys’ cross found the head of debutant Brown, whose header beat goalkeeper Luke McCormick. Argyle quickly searched for a way back in to the game and they nearly did so when Lewis Alessandra hit an effort just wide of the target before Boco too came close to levelling the scores.
Armand Gnanduillet was forced off the field after around half an hour suffering from what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder. Sheffield United loanee Callum McFadzean replaced the forward and ten minutes later fellow striker Marc Richards doubled the lead.
With five minutes of the first half to play, Richards was brought down in the box and the referee made no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The man who won the spot kick then got up and kept his cool to convert it – making it 2-0 at the break.
Richards was replaced at half time by Jay O’Shea and the Irishman came close to adding another for the Spireites with a curling effort that forced a good save from the ‘keeper. But the visitors were seemingly gifted a way back in to the contest on the hour. Brown turned from hero to villian as he fouled Caolan Lavery in the box, giving away a penalty and earning himself a straight red card.
However, Lee, who had saved a penalty in the last home game and in the shootout at Boundary Park in midweek, was once again a hero as he kept out Reuben Reid’s effort from the spot Despite the extra man advantage, Plymouth couldn’t break through the solid Chesterfield defence and the Spireites held on to the victory relatively comfortably to consolidate their place at the top of League 2.
Chesterfield 2–0 Plymouth Argyle
Brown ‘9, Richards ’42 (pen)
Lee, Talbot, Humphreys, Hird, Evatt, Brown, Darikwa (McSheffrey ’90), Togwell, Gnanduillet (McFadzean ’34), Richards (O’Shea ’46), Doyle
McCormick, Berry (Reckord ’77), Boco (Lavery ’55), Nelson, Trotman, Blanchard, Hourihane, Blizzard (Young ’78), Gurrieri, Reid, Alessandra