Chesterfield’s second ever visit to the Ricoh Arena ended in defeat as Adam Armstrong’s second half goal handed Coventry City a deserved victory.
A goalless first half saw the hosts be largely dominant, coming close on a couple of occasions, while the Spireites rarely threatened despite some long spells of possession.
Coventry finally found a breakthrough just five minutes into the second period courtesy of a low strike from Armstrong, already his sixth goal of the campaign.
The Spireites rarely looked like forcing a comeback, despite having a Sylvan Ebanks-Blake goal ruled out for offside shortly after the hour, and in truth it could’ve been more in the end as the Sky Blues ran out 1-0 victors.
Chesterfield made the journey to Coventry this afternoon for only the second time since March 1961, hoping to bounce back from two crazy home games that had seen them let five points slip in the last ten minutes.
It wasn’t going to be easy however, against a Coventry City side sitting in fourth position with four wins to their name already this campaign.
With the bad times seemingly behind them and the club back playing at their Ricoh Arena home following a brief ground-share with Northampton Town, the Sky Blues were bidding to finally return to the Championship at the fourth time of asking.
They had been the early season pace setters with a 100% record in their opening three games, but only a single victory since had seen them slip from the summit of the League 1 table.
Following last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Scunthorpe United, Tony Mowbray made a duo of changes – Jim O’Brien, returning following a short illness, and Liverpool loanee Ryan Kent taking the places of Marcus Tudgay and Ruben Lameiras in the starting eleven.
The Coventry attack also included on-loan Newcastle forward Armstrong, who had made a storming start to the his Sky Blues career with five goals and a player of the month award to his name already this season.
Despite recent disappointments, Dean Saunders’ men were in fact looking for a third consecutive away victory after successful trips to Shrewsbury Town and Millwall last month.
And Saunders’ task was made a little easier by the return of Sam Hird, Liam O’Neil and Ebanks-Blake from injury, the latter leading the attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Dan Gardner, Jay O’Shea and Lee Novak playing in behind the lone striker.
But a quiet opening ten minutes aside, it was the hosts who controlled the first half, creating numerous chances whilst the Spireites struggled to break down the regimented Sky Blues back line.
An Ian Evatt mistake handed the hosts their first half chance of the game, but O’Brien ‘s ball to the in-space Armstrong was quickly intercepted by Hird.
Armstrong then cheekily attempted to lob goalkeeper Tommy Lee from inside his own half but the effort was embarrassingly misfired and ended up going out for a throw in!
The Chesterfield ‘keeper got his hands on the ball for the first time shortly after. A clever one-two between Chris Stokes and Jacob Murphy saw the latter fire low across goal, but it was comfortably held by Lee – Coventry seemingly lacking that penetrating final ball in the opening 20 minutes.
A good spell of possession for the visitors followed, but they remained unable to find a break through and quickly grew frustrated – in particular the experienced Ebanks-Blake who was surrounded by defenders every time the ball came near.
Coventry then pushed on with multiple opportunities in a short period mid-way through the half, but the wasteful hosts failed to convert a single one of them.
The in-form Armstrong let a number of these chances go begging. First, the Newcastle loanee opted to cut back – poorly – after receiving the ball in a potentially dangerous shooting position from O’Brien.
And the forward found himself in an even better position just moments later, cutting past Evatt in the box before lifting the ball over the crossbar and into the large, empty stand behind the net.
Dan Jones had to remain focused to clear a dangerous Kent cross with the Coventry attackers lying in wait behind him, before Murphy curled an effort wide of the target during another dangerous counter attack – choosing the selfish option and finishing poorly in a 3-on-3 situation with the Spireites defence.
John Fleck forced an uncomfortable stop from Lee moments later and with his side on the back foot, the Spireites boss decided to make a late first half switch by replacing Gardner with tricky winger Gboly Ariyibi.
The change appeared briefly to have worked and the Spireites almost broke the deadlock during a rare attack. USA U-23 international Ariyibi made an instant impact as his cross found debuting right back Chris Herd, whose looping header forced a panicked Lee Burge to tip the ball over the crossbar.
But things quickly returned to the same pattern and the half ended with Coventry putting pressure on the visitors defence with a couple of corners, the last of which saw Romain Vincelot rise highest and flick the ball just wide of the far post.
Having weathered the Sky Blues storm in the first half, Chesterfield fans were hopeful that their side would improve in the second period and take something back to North Derbyshire.
However, these hopes were partly dashed just five minutes into the half as the hosts took a deserved lead – Armstrong receiving the ball from Murphy in the area before scuffing a low effort past Lee and into the far corner.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal but the majority of the 11,003 inside the ground cared little as they celebrated the forward’s sixth goal in seven appearances for the club.
Two minutes later, Murphy came close to adding a goal to his earlier assist with a strike from around 30 yards that flew just over the crossbar, receiving a number of “ooh’s” from the home supporters on it’s way.
A trio of chances in a ten minute spell shortly after the hour proved to be Chesterfield’s best of the game as they desperately searched for an equaliser.
Ebanks-Blake thought for a brief moment that he had found a levelling goal when he poked home Sam Morsy’s deflected free kick, but the assistant’s raised flag quickly ended any celebrations.
The pressure slowly began to build on the home back line, who looked happy to defend their lead and charge forward on the counter attack.
Some neat work from O’Shea layed off Mani Dieseruvwe on the edge of the area – the 20 year old’s curling effort deflecting harmlessly wide of Burge’s net.
Jones then almost scored a carbon-copy of his goal against Colchester last weekend with a trademark curling free kick that missed everybody and forced Burge into action as the outstretched goalkeeper punched the ball out of play.
But the home side remained hugely dangerous on the counter attack and Murphy proved this point by charging from his own half past a number of players before forcing an excellent near post save out of Lee.
Reda Johnson and Marc-Antoine Fortune saw half chances go wide of the target as the final ten minutes approached and the ever-threatening Kent then burst forward once more before firing an off-balance strike into the arms of Lee.
Saunders played a final roll of the dice by replacing defender Herd with the more attacking option of Ollie Banks, while Armstrong left the field to a standing ovation with five minutes to go as he quickly becomes a fan favourite at the Ricoh Arena.
But the away side’s substitution made little impact, and their afternoon came to a miserable conclusion when Dieseruvwe was given his marching orders following a second yellow card for handball in the 88th minute – remarkably his second red card of the season already.
It was a disappointing outcome for the Spireites but one they could have few complaints about as a confident Coventry City side dominated for the most part and could, in reality, have had a few more. Victory for them means they remain comfortable in fourth spot ahead of next weekend’s trip to Bury.
Meanwhile, Chesterfield fall to 9th in the League 1 table and remain winless in September – a fact they will be hoping to change on Saturday when league-leaders Burton Albion visit the Proact Stadium.
Coventry City (1)
Line-up: Burge, Stokes, Vincelot, Johnson, Fleck, Armstrong (Lameiras ’84) , O’Brien (Antoine-Fortune ’75), Ricketts, Martin, Murphy, Kent
Unused subs: Charles-Cook, Thomas, Morris, Phillips, Tudgay
Scorers: Armstrong ’50
Line-up: Lee, Herd (Banks ’79), Jones, Hird, Morsy, Evatt, Gardner (Ariyibi ’40), Ebanks-Blake, O’Shea, Novak (Dieseruvwe ’46 (RED CARD ’88)), O’Neil
Unused subs: Cairns, Raglan, Humphreys, Gnanduillet
Attendance: 11,003 (841 away)
Referee: Darren Bond
Date: 19th September 2015
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