Relegation strugglers Chesterfield and Fleetwood Town played out a scrappy goalless draw at the Proact Stadium as the two sides looked to move closer to League 1 survival.
Chesterfield entered a vital Easter period with a massive game at the bottom end of the table as 19th-placed Fleetwood Town visited the Proact Stadium to face a Spireites side sitting just two points and a single place above them.
Danny Wilson’s men knew that following a valuable draw away to Scunthorpe last week, a good return from this and a trip to fellow strugglers Oldham Athletic in two days time could realistically seal their League 1 safety for next season.
Three consecutive defeats for the Cod Army had halted their prior run of form, but Steven Pressley’s side will have seen the trip to North Derbyshire as a golden opportunity to bounce back and take a big step towards safety themselves.
There was a familiar face among the visitors’ starting eleven this afternoon as Fleetwood captain Jimmy Ryan returned to the place he won the League 2 title in 2014 for the first time since his move last summer.
Meanwhile, the international break had left the hosts without two recent star performers in Declan John and Connor Dimaio, who were called up to the Wales and Republic of Ireland U21 squads respectively, while last week’s debut goalscorer Jamal Campbell-Ryce returned to the bench.
Chesterfield started brightly, winning a dangerous free kick almost immediately from the kick off, and they came close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute. Lee Novak charged down the right and found Jay O’Shea in front of goal with a low cross, but the intercepting defender did just enough to put the Irishman off.
Ryan marked his return to Chesterfield with a booking after just five minutes and he was quickly joined by opposition forward Novak in potentially controversial fashion – the loanee racing through on goal before hitting the ground as goalkeeper Chris Maxwell dived in, only for referee Nigel Miller to book the attacker for simulation.
The opening quarter of the contest quickly descended into a scrappy affair as two sides desperate for the victory, but equally as desperate not to lose, struggled the create much of note.
That was until the 26th minute, when a wonderful piece of play between O’Shea and Ollie Banks allowed the latter through on goal, but the 23-year-old’s lobbed finish over Maxwell was just too high and lifted over the crossbar to the “ooh’s” of the home crowd.
A couple of minutes later, David Ball looked for an immediate response to the game’s best opportunity thus far but could only fire high and wide into the stand from the edge of the area.
However, it was the Spireites who were beginning to gain a brief foothold in the match and with the half-hour approaching, Liam O’Neil was next to come close with a first-time effort from an unlikely angle that curled just wide of the far post.
Centre back Tom Anderson became the fourth name in Mr Miller’s book with only 30 minutes on the clock for a pull-back. The resulting, seemingly dangerous free kick was comfortably dealt with however as a training ground routine for the visitors failed to bring any success.
The game remained an even and uneventful contest until the Spireites nearly grabbed a lead in the final minute of the half.
O’Shea managed to knock an overhit Gboly Ariyibi cross back across the face of goal and into the path of Novak, but the forward failed to get a solid enough connection of the ball and could only clip it wide of the target from the edge of six yard box.
It remained goalless until the break and Wilson decided to hand Campbell-Ryce a home debut at half time in place of Chris Herd, no doubt hoping he could make a similar impact to the one he had at Glanford Park last weekend.
Fleetwood were the team to cause the biggest threat early in the second period, however, as David Henen and Tyler Forbes each fired strikes inside five minutes of the restart that flew just inches wide of the post and appeared to have Tommy Lee concerned.
At the other end, O’Shea then came close to breaking the deadlock with a decent attempt from the edge of the area that was lifted just over Maxwell’s top right-hand corner. A couple of minutes later, captain Gary Liddle failed to make the most of a free header inside the box, directing the ball comfortably wide of the target as the search for a goal continued.
With ten minutes remaining, another Spireites opportunity saw the ball pinging around the box before finally landing to Ariyibi, whose right-footed first time volley was hit just wide of the target.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Jordan Slew were both brough on by Wilson as the manager appeared to be going for the victory. But in contrast, it appeared to be the Cod Army who were doing most of the pushing in the dying moments – although the visitors failed to put away any of their half chances and the contest befittingly ended 0-0.
After the game, Wilson reflected: “We both wanted to win it, but both didn’t want to lose either. It doesn’t get us anywhere but we don’t get closer to relegation. Just because we’re away from the bottom four doesn’t mean were not still in it. We are. And we’ll be going to Oldham to try and win the game.”
As mentioned, Chesterfield are back in action on Monday afternoon with a trip to John Sheridan’s Oldham Athletic, who sit in the bottom four ahead of a meeting with the Spireites.
Line-up: Tommy Lee, Chris Herd (Jamal Campbell-Ryce ’46), Sam Hird, Jay O’Shea (Sylvan Ebanks-Blake ’80), Lee Novak, Liam O’Neil, Gary Liddle, Tom Anderson, Ollie Banks, Drew Talbot, Gboly Ariyibi
Unused subs: Ritchie Humphreys, Charlie Raglan, Aaron Chapman, Jake Orrell, Jordan Slew
Fleetwood Town (0)
Line-up: Chris Maxwell, Stephen Jordan, Amari’i Bell, Jimmy Ryan, Tyler Forbes, Ashley Hunter, David Ball, Marcus Nilsson, Stefan Scougall (Eggert Jonsson ’82), Thomas Grant (Devante Cole ’60), David Henen (Keano Deacon ’70)
Unused subs: Nathan Pond, Victor Nirennold, Nick Haughton, Alexandra Gogic
Date: 26th March 2016
Competition: SkyBet League 1
Attendance: 6,435 (153 away)
Referee: Mr Nigel Miller