Chesterfield’s woeful September continued on Saturday as league-leaders Burton Albion came from behind to defeat the Spireites 2-1.
In a winless month that had already seen Dean Saunders’ men drop points in the dying moments twice, it unbelievably became a hat-trick of stoppage time heartbreak for the Spireites as Jerome Binnom-Williams came off the bench to score a last minute winner.
Chesterfield‘s fortunes had appeared to be changing when Sam Hird rose highest to head home from the game’s very first corner.
Training ground work had clearly paid-off when a cleverly worked set-piece move – the attackers huddling on the edge of the area before darting in all directions – struck gold in the second minute.
But Jimmy Floyd Hasselbainlk’s Burton side have not been in the habit of losing recently, following last season’s title victory with six wins from eight this time around, and they quickly began to bounce back – largely dominating the opening half hour.
Nasser El-Khayati came close to finding the leveller just five minutes in, but Ian Evatt was on hand to clear the effort, while Lucas Akins will have been very disappointed not to at least hit the target after breaking through on Tommy Lee’s goal around the ten minute mark.
Only two clean sheets all season have highlighted the defensive frailties of Saunders’ side so far, but these concerns were not on show in this first half as the back line, led by the experienced centre-back duo of Evatt and Hird, held strong and weathered the early Brewers storm.
As the game became a more even battle around the 30 minute mark, Hird’s goal – which kept up his record of scoring in every season as a Spireite player, remained the difference between the two teams.
Dan Gardner went on a tremendous run down the left in the 27th minute before setting up Gboly Ariyibi at the far post, but the USA under-23 international couldn’t find the target – denying Gardner his second assist of the afternoon.
A dramatic goalmouth scramble in first half stoppage time at the other end left the home fans with their hearts in their mouths, but some heroic blocking from the Chesterfield defence ensured they headed to the dressing room with their slender advantage in tact.
It didn’t last long though. Former Holland international and £15 million man Hasselbaink has proved a success in his first managerial role in England, and his half time team talk took instant affect as Burton equalised less than 40 seconds after the restart.
El Khayati’s low cross-come-shot was blocked by Evatt, but the ball fell invitingly to Stuart Beavon who poked home his fifth goal of the season from close range to put the visitors on level terms.
A purple patch ensued for the Brewers, roared on by the 915 away supporters behind the goal who were in fine voice all afternoon.
Less than two minutes after the goal, Akins had a good chance to put his side ahead, but the striker was once again wasteful and could only fire in to the stand despite being found in plenty of space inside the area.
Akins came agonisingly close to redeeming himself shortly after though, shaking the crossbar with a powerful strike that was just inches from crossing the line and giving Burton the lead.
The Chesterfield boss knew something needed to be done and switched to a 4-4-2 with about 20 minutes to go. Armand Gnanduillet and debutant Rai Simons made up the strike force as Gardner and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, whose impact as a lone striker had been minimal, were taken off.
The tactical shake-up appeared to have made a difference for the hosts and it looked like the game really could go either way as it headed towards a conclusion.
Supporters in the Kop were already on their feet when Hird flicked Jay O’Shea’s free kick towards goal, but a tremendous save from Jon McLaughlin denied the defender another goal.
Gnanduillet was then handed a match-winning opportunity in the 89th minute when he was picked out at the far post by a dangerous Dan Jones cross. However, as has often been the case with the frustrating Ivorian forward, he fluffed his lines at the vital moment and failed to find the target.
And with the Spireites’ recent record of conceding in the last few minutes, it wasn’t overly surprising when the Brewers snatched a winning goal in stoppage time.
20-year old Binnom-Williams, who only joined the game in the 84th minute, was the hero as he charged past Drew Talbot with ease before confidently slotting the ball past Lee.
Scenes that mirrored those of the Wigan Athletic fans just weeks before followed, the away supporters erupting in sheer delight at a late goal that keeps their side at the League 1 summit and cements Burton’s position as the Proact Stadium’s bogey side – having now won three and drawn one of their four visits.
“I’m not going to sleep tonight” stated a visibly disappointed and frustrated Saunders at full time. It is a feeling that many Spireites supporters will understandably share, but it is hard to argue that the visitors didn’t deserve their win, having dominated much of the game and created the best chances – a point raised by Brewers boss Hasselbaink at full time: “The neutral would say Burton deserved the three points and played attractive football. You can’t ask for more.”
It is far too early in the season to describe the recent run of results at Chesterfield as a crisis, but there is no doubting that a victory at rock-bottom Blackpool on Tuesday night is now of imperative importance to Dean Saunders and his team.
Line-up: Lee, Talbot, Hird, Evatt, Jones, Morsy, O’Neil, Ariyibi, O’Shea, Gardner (Simons ’66), Ebanks-Blake (Gnanduillet ’71)
Unused subs: Cairns, Banks, Raglan, Herd, Orrell
Scorers: Hird ‘2
Burton Albion (2)
Line-up: McLaughlin, Edwards, Mousinho, Weir, Beavon, Akins (Palmer ’90), El-Khayati, Butcher, McCrory, O’Connor, Duffy (Binnom-Williams ’84)
Unused subs: Matthews, Joachim, Naylor, Thiele, Flanagan
Scorers: Beavon ’46, Binnom-Williams ’90
Referee: David Webb
Attendance: 6752 (915 away)
Date: Saturday 26th September 2015