Chesterfield suffered a second consecutive defeat as Millwall ran out 2-1 winners on their first ever visit to the Proact Stadium.
The Spireites largely dominated the first half and took the lead after 25 minutes courtesy of a superb long range strike from Sam Morsy.
Their lead lasted less than two minutes, however, before Aiden O’Brien nodded home the equaliser despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
And the home side were made to rue missed opportunities as Lee Gregory’s goal early in the second period ultimately proved the difference to help the Lions move into the top six.
Defeat to Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium last weekend had brought to an end Danny Wilson’s unbeaten start as Chesterfield manager. And bouncing back was going to be no easy task as Millwall, relegated from the Championship only last season and sitting just a point off the play-off spots, made their first ever visit to the new stadium.
But the visit of the Lions did offer the possibility of a league double for the Spireites following August’s 2-0 victory at the New Den. In fact, Millwall had won just one of their last ten meetings with Chesterfield and their last trip to the town had ended in a 5-1 defeat – so there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful as a home supporter!
And just as the history books had suggested, it was Chesterfield who dominated the majority of the early stages, despite O’Brien being the first to test a goalkeeper with a drilled long-range effort in the sixth minute.
A mix-up at the vital moment between Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Lee Novak cost the latter a golden striking opportunity from just inside the area. But soon after the two experienced forwards showed great skill to link up and come within inches of opening the scoring when Ebanks-Blake just failed to get on the end of a dangerous cross.
In the 24th minute, Novak had the fans on their feet as he broke through on goal but could only find the side-netting – despite many of those backing the Spireites believing he had found the goal.
A minute later however, the noisy home crowd did have reason to celebrate. Morsy, playing his final Chesterfield game if the rumours are to be believed, hammered home a spectacular driven effort from outside the area to give Chesterfield a deserved lead.
It didn’t last long though and less than two minutes after falling behind, Millwall were level. O’Brien’s eighth league goal of the season came from a simple header which restored parity and started the first “no one likes us” chant of the afternoon.
This was a big disappointment for a Chesterfield side who had worked hard to take the lead just moments earlier. But rather than let their heads drop, Wilson’s men responded positively and had the better of the remainder of the half – O’Shea forcing Jordan Archer into a good save from his close range volley.
But whatever Millwall legend and manager Neil Harris said at half-time clearly worked as his side came out firing at the start of the second half and found a vital goal just two minutes after the restart.
Sheffield-born former Halifax Town forward Gregory was the man to put the visitors ahead as he poked the ball past the onrushing Tommy Lee to score his eighth league goal of the season right in front of the delighted 855 away supporters.
The contest was becoming a feisty and end-to-end contest as the Spireites spent plenty of time in the opposition half without creating many clear cut chances while the Lions looked to put the game to bed on the counter – Gregory coming close to doubling his tally on a couple of occasions.
With 71 minutes on the clock, Morsy almost found the net yet again with a similar effort to his earlier goal – Archer this time able to get something behind the strike before smothering the rebound as it trickled towards the line.
Wilson decided to bring on Byron Harrison with just over ten minutes to play and the forward almost repayed the faith shown in him by the manager, directing Jay O’Shea’s powerful cross goalwards only to be denied by an instinctive save from Archer.
At the other end, the experienced Steve Morison came agonisingly close to furthering Millwall’s lead in the dying moments as he stole possession at the byline before forcing Lee to tip his deflected effort on to the crossbar from the tightest of angles.
And ultimately, despite yet another promising Chesterfield performance, it was the visitors who saw out the 2-1 victory to move into the top six for the first time this season – a fact manager Neil Harris was understandably delighted about:
“It was nowhere near our best performance of the season, but we showed character and resilience. It’s very imporant to be in the top six at this stage of the season.”
Meanwhile, Chesterfield boss Danny Wilson had mixed feelings when reflecting on a second consecutive defeat for his side:
“We can’t really complain about the performance. The minimum we should have come away with was a draw but they defended better than we did and that’s a credit to them. We’ve got to cut those mistakes out.
“Points are paramount. A scrappy 1-0 would have done. But when you play well and have the chances we did you’ve got to take them. But we’ve got to recover from it. It’s going to be a tight fight until the end of the season but sides that put two or three wins together will get out of it and we’ve got to make that our objective.”
Chesterfield must wait two weeks before their next game, when they host Peterborough United at the Proact Stadium, by which time the January transfer window will be over. But when asked about any potential movements in or out, the manger simply stated “Nothing in or out at the moment.” before adding that “the break won’t do us any harm.”
Line-up: Lee, Hird, Morsy, Ebanks-Blake (Harrison ’72), O’Shea, Novak, O’Neil, Raglan, Donohue, Talbot (Dieseruvwe ’87), Ariyibi (Gardner ’65)
Unused subs: Humphreys, Chapman, Onovwigun, Simons
Scorers: Morsy ’25
Line-up: Archer, Cummings, Williams, Gregory (Onyedinma ’88), Beevers, Webster, Ferguson (Martin ’76), Morison, O’Brien (Upson ’33), Wallace, Abdou
Unused subs: Forde, Marquis, Nelson, Thompson
Scorers: O’Brien ’27, Gregory ’47
Attendance: 7,078 (855 away)
Date: 23rd January 2016
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