On December 26th 2013, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Hartlepool United.
My second ever, and second consecutive Boxing Day match saw the Spireites host Hartlepool. The last time ‘Pool had visited the Proact it had been a day to forget for the visitors as Chesterfield ran out 6-1 winners in the FA Cup tie. Remarkably, despite being little more than a year on from that game, not one of the six Spireites goalscorers (Scott Boden, Mark Randall, Craig Clay, Terrell Forbes, Jack Lester and Ccraig Westcarr) remained at the club – just shows how quickly things can change in football!
The side from Derbyshire were sitting top of the League 2 table heading in to this festive fixture on a run of four consecutive wins in all competitions. In stark contrast, Hartlepool had made a poor start to life back in the fourth tier and hadn’t picked up a victory in over a month.
The visit of Hartlepool was particularly special for one Chesterfield player – Ritchie Humphreys. Humphreys, who joined the Spireites in the summer from ‘Pool, is a club legend at Victoria Park. He played for them for 12 seasons and holds the club record for appearances with an incredible 544. This afternoon saw him face his former club for the first time since leaving in the summer, so it was sure to be an emotional day for the 36 year old left back.
The game got off to a slow start in front of a bumper boxing day crowd of over 7,500. It was the visitors that had the first chance of the contest, Luke James forcing an early save out of in-form goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
Chesterfield began to grow into the game and Armad Gnanduillet came close to opening the scoring with two successive opportunities. The Frenchman, who returned to the starting line up after recovering from a knock, first saw an effort cleared off the line by a defender before firing an effort just wide of the target soon after.
Eoin Doyle saw a long range volley fly just wide of Scott Flinders’ goal, before the Spireites finally broke the deadlock just after the half hour mark. A cross from Marc Richards found Tendayi Darikwa at the far post and a confident side-footed volley from the winger put the home side in the ascendancy.
But all the hard work from the Spireites in the first half was undone in a matter of moments. Just two minutes after the restart, the visitors were awarded a penalty as James Poole was pulled down in the box by Sam Hird. Matthew Dolan stepped up and levelled the scores from the spot, despite ‘keeper Lee diving the right way.
The game became an end-to-end battle as both sides searched for the goal that could win it for them. The home side were given an advantage with over 20 minutes to play as Andy Monkhouse was shown his second yellow card, the first for diving and then another moments later for what looked like an elbow on Drew Talbot.
Despite the man advantage, the solid Hartlepool defence still held strong as Richards’ off-target effort the best the Spireites could muster. Dolan came close to bagging his and the visitors’ second of the game, while James forced a superb diving save from Lee in the final moments of the game.
The match ended level with a battling performance from 10-man Hartlepool earning them a deserved point. Chesterfield will have been a little disappointed not to have taken all three points, but they remained top of the league 2 table with just one game of 2013 to go.
Chesterfield 1–1 Hartlepool United
Darikwa ’31, Dolan ’48 (pen)
Lee, Talbot, Humphreys, Banks, Evatt, Hird, Darikwa, Togwell (Cooper ’80), Gnanduillet (O’Shea ’66), Richards, Doyle (McSheffrey ’77)
Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Walker, Baldwin, Burgess, Compton (Poole ’17), Dolan, James, Franks (Rodney ’87), Monkhouse