Chesterfield came within moments of a first league victory since October in Danny Wilson’s first game in charge of the Spireites.
Lee Novak’s glancing header had given the struggling Spireites a first half lead against promotion-chasing Coventry City.
The hosts held on valiantly and this goal looked to be enough for the three points until James Maddison salvaged a draw with a superb free-kick in the 89th minute.
Despite the late disappointment, new boss Wilson was in high spirits after the game – speaking of both his pride at taking the role and delight with the positive performance.
Remarkably, despite sitting just two points above the relegation zone and without a league win since the end of October, there was something of a ‘feel-good factor’ back at the Proact Stadium on this bank holiday Monday.
The appointment of Chesterfield legend Danny Wilson as new manager appeared to have brought a new sense of optimism to the fans and well over 6,000 of them packing into the stadium to witness his first game in charge.
Having watched Boxing Day’s 2-0 defeat at Peterborough United from the stands, the former Spireites midfielder made four changes to the starting eleven – including the return of captain Sam Morsy from suspension.
Prior to kick off, Wilson received a hero’s welcome from the vocal fans who clearly feel he is the mine to turn around the worrying situation left by former boss Dean Saunders. It wasn’t going to be easy however and in the visit of Coventry City – who had lost just once in 14 league games, the new manager had a real baptism of fire on his hands.
There was quickly a concerning moment for the new manager as veteran centre-back Ian Evatt had to be stretchered off the field after only 22 minutes.
But it was his replacement Lee Novak who opened the scoring 16 minutes later. A scrappy first half of few clear chances was suddenly brought to life when the on-loan forward flicked Jay O’Shea’s free kick past Reice Charles-Cook and into the net – scoring Chesterfield’s first goal in six games!
The lengthy injury to Evatt meant there were five additional minutes at the end of the half and a duo of tremendous saves from Tommy Lee denied John Fleck and kept the Spireites ahead at the interval.
Coventry came out for the second half on a mission, but struggled to break down the resolute defence and were largely restrained to hopeful shots from distance – Maddison sending an effort comfortably wide just moments after receiving a booking for an off the ball altercation with the ever-heated Morsy.
With 25 minutes to play and his side still trailing, Coventry manager Tony Mowbray brought on the division’s top scorer Adam Armstrong, whose goal had proved the difference at the Ricoh Arena in the reverse fixture a few months prior.
The 13-goal strong forward almost made an instant impact but his low driven effort flew just wide of the far post, much to the relief of the majority inside the stadium.
But for a ten-minute spell just after the 70-minute mark, the attacking roles were reversed and the Spireites came agonisingly close to putting the game to bed.
A theft of possession from a defender by Gboly Ariyibi saw him charge down the wing before cutting the ball back across goal. Mani Dieseruvwe, a second half substitute, missed the ball completely with an airshot but it instead fell to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, whose strike clipped the crossbar.
Ebanks-Blake then came even closer six minutes later when his goalbound shot was blocked on the line after the veteran forward had been picked out by the onrushing Novak.
The Spireites were holding on well and looked to be on course for a first league victory in nearly two months. The frustration of a seemingly impending defeat finally got the better of opposition manager Mowbray, who was sent to the stands after an unsavoury discussion with the referee.
But with just a minute of normal time left, there was devastation for the home side as a late goal once again cost them. Maddison, who scored Coventry’s Boxing Day winner against Port Vale, was once again the hero as he curled an unstoppable free kick past Lee to salvage a point and ensue a rather bizarre pitch invasion from a small number of 2636 passionate travelling supporters.
It was a disappointing end to a positive afternoon for Wilson’s men and the new manager’s reflection on the game was largely a positive one:
“I’m not too disappointed because the players themselves were terrific. We can take great positives, we’ve gone toe to toe with one of the best sides in the division and got a share of the spoils.”
Regarding the Evatt injury, Wilson said: “It’s an achilles injury. It’s quite swollen but hopefully it will calm down in the next 24 hours. Whether he will be available for Saturday we will have to wait and see.”
Finally, the man who played 100 times for the club between 1980 and 1983 spoke of great pride at taking on the role of manager at Chesterfield:
“It’s a very proud moment. The fans have been terrific with me today and that lifted the players as well. A happy atmosphere has an impact on them.”
Chesterfield now look ahead to a second home game in a week on Saturday as they kick off 2016 with the visit of Shrewsbury Town.
Line-up: Lee, O’Neil, Evatt (Novak ’22), Hird, Wood, Herd (Banks ’80), Morsy, Donohue, O’Shea (Dieseruvwe ’61), Ariyibi, Ebanks-Blake
Unused subs: Chapman, Simons, Onovwigun, Harrison
Scorers: Novak ’38
Coventry City (1)
Line-up: Charles-Cook, Stokes, Vincelot, Fleck, Maddison, O’Brien, Philips (Tudgay ’77), Ricketts, Haynes, Antoine-Fortune (Armstrong ’65), Kent (Murphy ’65)
Unused subs: Burge, Lameiras, Bigirimana, Kelly-Evans
Scorers: Maddison ’89
Attendance: 9057 (2636)
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