Rai Simons’ first ever league goal wasn’t enough to stop Chesterfield slipping to a sixth defeat in eight games on Saturday against Gillingham.
The Bermudan’s composed strike had put the hosts level nine minutes after John Egan capitalised on a Tommy Lee error to open the scoring.
But Rory Donnelly’s fifth goal in three league outings regained the visitors’ lead, before Harry Lennon sealed their first away victory since August with a close range header 15 minutes from time.
Another disappointing afternoon for Chesterfield saw them fall to 16th in the table and remain without a home win since the opening day, despite manager Dean Saunders believing that it was one of his sides’ best performances of the season.
As the football league’s top scorers visited a side that have leaked 8 goals in their last three home games, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Gillingham broke the deadlock. So often a hero this season, goalkeeper Lee was this time at fault as he spilled Brennan Dickenson’s free kick straight into the path of Egan, who scrambled the ball home at the far post.
The fact that the 6,026 spectators had to wait almost half an hour for a noteworthy incident highlights the tepidness of the early exchanges perfectly. But a nervy opening was to be expected judging by form as Chesterfield, without a home win since day one of the season, faced opponents who, despite sitting fourth, hadn’t won away since August.
A rare positive in a difficult season so far for the Spireites has been the emergence of 19 year old Simons and it was he who levelled the scores ten minutes before the break. Latching on to Sam Morsy’s through ball, the Bermudan youngster confidently slotted the ball past Stuart Nelson to score his first league goal.
Returning from suspension this afternoon, Morsy found himself straight back in the thick of the action as the contest became a feisty affair, earning himself a sixth yellow card of the season for his troubles. But he wasn’t the only one. Even Spireites boss Saunders found himself on the field, debating the referee’s decision not to book Bradley Dack after a late tackle on Chris Herd.
Chesterfield ended the first half on top without any particularly clear cut chances, and began the second period in a similar vein – Morsy lifting the home fans to their feet with a curling effort that forced a good diving save from the Gills goalkeeper.
However, Rory Donnelly dealt the Spireites a killer blow in the 54th minute. The in-form striker met Jermaine McGlashan’s cross with a bullet header that found the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance to score his fifth goal in the last three leagues games.
With the visitors regaining their advantage, there was now a stark contrast between the two sets of supporters. The 396 visitors were understandably in high spirits while the home fans’ frustrations began to spill over, their anger being aimed mainly at referee Nick Kinseley, who Chesterfield’s manager later simply described as “awful.”
18 minutes from time, the Gillingham faithful were given more to be cheerful about when Lennon furthered their lead. A spell of pressure, that earlier saw McGlashan hit the post and Josh Wright forced a good save from Lee, finally paid off. Wright’s corner found Egan, whose resulting header was directed home from close range by the Charlton Athletic loanee to make it 3-1.
This was the final straw for many Chesterfield fans, who decided to head home well before full time. Despite the best efforts of the Spireites and a switch to 4-4-2, in reality a comeback rarely looked likely and it was Gillingham who earned a three points that moved them to third in the league table.
Despite a defeat that left his side in 16th place, Saunders remained positive and even went as far as to say “at times today we played the best we have all season.” The Welshman also picked out goalscorer Simons among half-a-dozen good performers this afternoon, the young Bermudan admitting his delight at getting on the scoresheet but going on to say “of course I’d rather we had got the three points.”
Chesterfield now look ahead to next Saturday’s trip to Walsall, hoping to turn around their fortunes with a first league win at the Bescot Stadium since 2005.
Line-up: Lee, Jones, Raglan, Evatt, Herd (Dieseruvwe ’73), O’Neil, Morsy, Gardner, O’Shea, Simons, Ebanks-Blake
Unused subs: Chapman, Humphreys, Talbot, Hird, Donohue, Orrell
Scorers: Simons ’35
Line-up: Nelson, Egan, Ehmer (A Morris ’46), Hessenthaler, McGlashan (Osadebe ’80), Donnelly, Norris, Dack, Dickenson (Garmston ’77), Lennon, Wright
Unused subs: Houghton, Williamson, McDonald, G Morris
Scorers: Egan ’26, Donnelly ’54, Lennon ’72
Attendance: 6026 (396 away)
Referee: Nick Kinseley
Date: Saturday 10th October 2015
Gallery (click for larger images)