Chesterfield threw away a two-goal home lead for the second consecutive week as they drew 3-3 with Colchester United in a thriller at the Proact Stadium.
The Spireites were forced to play 75 minutes with ten men when Drew Talbot was shown a straight red after bringing down debutant Marvin Sordell, who the referee adjudged to be the last man.
Despite this, the home side charged into a 3-1 lead courtesy of goals from Dan Jones, Lee Nocak and Sam Morsy and looked to be sailing to a fourth league victory of the season.
But just as they had done last week, Chesterfield let the advantage slip.
George Moncur gave Colchester hope with a 76th minute strike and the three points were once again lost in heartbreaking fashion when Charlie Raglan bundled the ball into his own net in the third minute of stoppage time.
The Proact Stadium hosted League 1 football for the second weekend in a row and the visit of 23rd-placed Colchester United, who were without a win all season, appeared to be the perfect chance for Chesterfield to bounce back from last Saturday’s heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Wigan Athletic.
But Dean Saunders’ task was made more difficult by the woeful list of injuries to the squad – Sam Hird, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Liam O’Neil and Angel Martinez all absent for varying lengths of time.
However, the Spireites team news wasn’t all negative. Novak and Talbot overcame knocks to earn their place in the starting eleven, while Gboly Ariyibi was back straight from scoring his first USA under-23 goal during the week.
Meanwhile, Tony Humes’ Colchester side included Premier League experience in George Elokobi and former £3million man Sordell who was one of two players making his debut for the U’s, along with on-loan goalkeeper Jamie Jones.
Jones didn’t have to wait long to make his first save for his new club, keeping out Ariyibi’s off-balance volley five minutes in, after his counterpart Tommy Lee had held a Matthew Briggs tester from range just moments earlier.
And it was a great outstretched save from the Chesterfield stopper that denied Alex Gilbey when the young midfielder broke through on goal.
Many home supporters were delighted to see full back Talbot return to the starting line-up, but his game ended up lasting only 15 minutes before receiving a straight red card from referee Iain Williamson. Callum Harriott and Sordell, who proved to be a terrorising attacking duo all afternoon, linked up brilliantly to put the latter through on goal, only to be brought down by the defender – who the referee adjudged was the last man.
It was a major blow for Saunders’ side, who decided to sacrifice the attacking Ariyibi and let 17-year old Jack Fitzwater fill in Talbot’s position at right back.
Yet despite being a man down, it was the home side who broke the deadlock seven minutes later – Dan Jones’ in-swinging free kick missing everybody and ending up in the far corner of the net.
The lead lasted only another seven minutes however, before Gavin Massey levelled for the visitors by confidently slotting home Harriott’s low cross.
With the game back level and Colchester having the man advantage, the visitors began to dominate possession and looked far more threatening in attack as the Spireites sat back in a 4-4-1 formation.
The dangerous duo of Harriott and Sordell linked up twice more before the break to create a couple of golden opportunities.
First, a cut back from Harriott left the Chesterfield in no man’s land, but fortunately for the Spireites, Sordell’s effort was deflected wide of the target. And the new signing came even closer just a minute before the interval, breaking through and lifting the ball over Lee – only to be miraculously denied by the inside of the post.
The visitors began the second period on the front foot, just as they had ended the first.
A speculative effort from Gilbey nearly caught Lee by surprise by clipping the outside of the near post.
Sordell then failed to convert a golden opportunity for the U’s. A mazy run from first half substitute Moncur took him past a couple of players before finding Massey, who’s dangerous ball across the face of goal found Sordell, but the ex-Premier League forward somehow failed to get a solid connection on the ball.
Colchester were left ruing their missed chances when the home side regained the lead shortly after the hour. O’Shea’s deflected effort from the edge of the area landed to Gardner, who knocked the ball back to Novak – the striker directing the ball home from close range to score his first goal for the club.
Sordell almost levelled immediately, but the striker was denied yet again when his close range header was kept out by the fingertips of heroic goalkeeper Lee.
Sam Morsy appeared to have sent Chesterfield cruising to victory when he connected to Ollie Banks’ cross with a first time strike to make it 3-1 in the 74th minute.
But just two minutes later, Moncur gave the U’s hope once again by curling an effort past Lee from inside the area to make it 3-2.
Late substitute Byron Harrison, who entered the game alongside debutant Dion Donohue, had a great chance to to put the victory beyond doubt but a weak finish allowed the U’s goalkeeper to keep the ball out.
And for a second week in a row, a two goal advantage was thrown away by the Spireites. Moncur’s strike smashed off the crossbar, landing to Harriott, whose ball back into the box bounced off the chest of Charlie Raglan and into the net in heartbreaking fashion.
Dean Saunders was understandably disappointed with the result, saying “I can’t help but feel gutted. Five points have slipped through our fingers with just minutes to go.”
However, he did admit that “When Drew walked off the pitch, I would’ve taken a point.”
And in fairness, a draw with ten men against who side who had dominated the contest for long periods wasn’t a terrible outcome.
Looking ahead to the trip to Coventry next Saturday, the Chesterfield boss said he hoped to have an almost fully fit squad with Ebanks-Blake, Hird and O’Neil all expected to return for the game at the Ricoh Arena.
Line-up: Lee, Talbot (RED CARD ’15), Jones, Evatt, Raglan, Gardner (Donohue ’87), Morsy, O’Shea, Novak (Harrison ’83), Ariyibi (Fitzwater ’19), Banks
Unused subs: Cairns, Gnanduillet, Humphreys, Dieseruvwe
Scorers: Jones ’22, Novak ’62, Morsy ’74
Colchester United (3)
Line-up: Jones, Garvan, Briggs (Bonne ’88), Edwards (Moncur ’28), Elokobi, Gilbey, Massey, Eastman, Vincent-Young, Harriott, Sordell
Unused subs: Parish, Kent, Szmodics, Brindley, Ambrose
Scorers: Massey ’29, Moncur ’76, Raglan (og) ’90
Referee: Iain Williamson
Attendance: 5,227 (134 away)
Date: 12th September 2015
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