On Saturday 16th August 2014, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play Rochdale in League 2.
A bright August afternoon played host to the Proact Stadium’s first game of the 2014/15 league season. Following the Spireites’ League 2 title-winning campaign, everyone was desperately hoping that this would not be a repeat of the last time Chesterfield graced League 2 when they were relegated at the first time of asking!
The signs were positive after an opening weekend that had seen them defeat Leyton Orient 2-1 at Brisbane Road, an outstanding victory against a side that were within touching distance of the Championship last season. This afternoon looked, on paper, like another winnable tie for Chesterfield as they set up to face fellow promoted side Rochdale, who had lost their opening league game 1-0 to Peterborough as well as being knocked out of the League Cup in midweek. However, the new season was still just a week old and at such an early stage you can take nothing for granted so it was sure to be a tough afternoon in store for both sides.
Prior to the kick off, we headed to the back of the East Stand to check out the newly-built Memorial Garden. Huge amounts of fundraising have taken place to fund this, with donations from the supporters playing a huge role in allowing the project to be completed. The garden honours Spireites, players and fans alike, who have passed away and it is a nice addition, with a couple of nice touches including a turnstile and the “Erected by the supporters clubs” bricks from the old stadium at Saltergate.
The 3pm kick off time slowly approached and the anticipation slowly built inside the stadium with the excitement of league football being back at the Proact after the long summer break. Romauld Boco and Daniel Jones were both making their league debuts at the stadium, although they had played here in the League Cup in midweek as Chesterfield went down 5-3 to Huddersfield Town in a thrilling contest. There were a couple of players in the Dale eleven who were making their full debuts, with Tom Kennedy and Stephen Dawson both arriving at the club during the week.
It was a bright day and the Spireites got the game underway against a Rochdale side sporting a Borussia Dortmund-like black and yellow away strip. Eoin Doyle had the first opportunity of the match when he beat Kennedy to the ball inside the area before attempting the lob the keeper from a tight angle, but his effort clipped the crossbar and fell to safety.
The Irish forward found the woodwork yet again a few minutes later. Gary Roberts played Doyle through and he hit a sweet strike that was only kept out by the inside of the post.
Rochdale’s first attempt on goal eventually came when the ball fell to Matt Done, who launched a powerful first-time shot at Tommy Lee but failed to force a save out of the Chesterfield stopper.
But it was the home side that dominated the first half and they were rewarded for their efforts with little over five minutes to go until the break. Jay O’Shea received the ball inside the box and turned only to be sliced down by Joseph Rafferty, leaving the referee with no option but to point to the spot. Doyle stepped up and comfortably converted the spot kick to give Chesterfield a half-time advantage.
Chesterfield began the second period by finding the woodwork for the third time in the match. Goalkeeper Josh Lillis caught the ball from a cross and looked to quickly roll the ball to Rafferty. However, Sam Morsy managed to steal the ball from him and fired past the ‘keeper who was yards off his line, but the shot again found the post. A desperate scramble ensued but it was eventually cleared to safety much to the relief of Rochdale.
Around the hour mark goalkeeper Lillis went down holding his head and had to be stretchered off the field. His replacement, 16 year old Jonathan Musangu had only been on the pitch a matter of moments when he was involved in a controversial incident. As Doyle looked to get on the end of a lobbed through ball, Musangu charged way out of his area and handled the ball to clear the danger. After much deliberation the referee decided only to show him a yellow card, although many in the stands were shouting for more.
With less than 15 minutes to go, the dominant Spireites were awarded a second spot kick of the afternoon when Bennett pulled Doyle down in the area. The Irishman doubled his and his side’s tally for the afternoon with another cooly taken penalty kick.
This second goal appeared to have put the game beyond doubt until very late in to stoppage time when the referee awarded yet another penalty, this time to the visitors, for a handball by Ian Evatt. Ian Henderson sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and for a brief moment there was the worry that their may be a repeat of last season, where Dale scored twice in stoppage time to draw 2-2 at the Proact.
However, there was no danger of that occurring this time as the Spireites saw out the victory comfortably and in reality the late goal possibly flattered Rochdale a little. The victory continued Chesterfield’s excellent start to the season and saw them up to 3rd in the league table after two wins from their first two league games. Can’t complain with that record!
Chesterfield 2-1 Rochdale
Doyle ’39 (p) ’76 (p), Henderson ’90 (p)
Lee, Darikwa, Morsy, Ryan (Onovwigun ’90), Evatt, O’Shea (Gnanduillet ’86), Hird, Jones, Doyle, Roberts, Boco (Banks ’90)
Lillis (Musangu ’60), Tanser (Donnelly ’64), Kennedy, Rafferty, Bunnety, Dawson, Done, Lund (Hery ’46), Bennett, Andrew, Henderson