Ched Evans was involved in a trio of goals on his home debut as Chesterfield defeated Swindon Town 3-1 at the Proact Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was Evans’ free kick that led to the opener, as Gary Liddle headed home his first ever Spireites goal after the Robins goalkeeper had tipped the original strike on to the crossbar.
The Welshman then won the spot kick that Jay O’Shea duly converted on the stroke of half time, before firing home Gboly Ariyibi’s cross to get himself on the scoresheet in the second half.
Darnell Furlong scored a late consolation for the visitors, but it was nothing more and Danny Wilson’s side ran out deserved victors in their opening home game of the new campaign.
The first home game of a new season is always an exciting occasion and, for Chesterfield, the day had finally arrived as they began their home league campaign with the visit of Swindon Town.
The Robins, who defeated Coventry City 1-0 last weekend before a respectable defeat on penalties to QPR in the League Cup, were expected to prove tough opponents for the Spireites – themselves yet to earn a victory having drawn at Oxford United and then lost 3-1 to Rochdale on Tuesday evening in the cup.
It was Swindon’s first trip to the Proact Stadium since the 4-0 demolition that cost previous manager Dean Saunders his job back in November.
His replacement, current boss Danny Wilson, was hoping to improve on a poor home record that saw Chesterfield win only six home league games at the Proact last season.
Looking to get off to a good start, Wilson handed the quartet of Ryan Fulton, Paul McGinn, Jon Nolan and Evans competitive home debuts following a busy summer – the latter of scoring last weekend’s equaliser in his first league appearance for four years.
Evans nearly continued his brilliant start to life with the Spireites in the fourth minute when a cross picked him out at the far post and only a tremendous fingertip save from Lawrence Vigouroux denied the seemingly goal-bound effort.
After scoring directly from a free kick at Oxford last Saturday, there was little doubt that it would be Evans who would step up when the Spireites won a free kick on the edge of the area in the 23rd minute – and once again this led to a goal.
The forward’s strike was tipped onto the crossbar by Vigouroux and the Chesterfield players were queuing up for the rebound. The ‘keeper bravely denied Sam Hird, but captain Liddle comfortably nodded home the follow-up to break the deadlock.
A bullish run down the right from the impressive Ariyibi almost led to a second just five minutes later as he picked out O’Shea, who burst into the area before unleashing a strike that stung the gloves of the goalkeeper.
It was dominant stuff from the hosts, who looked confident going forward but knew they needed to take advantage of this good spell in order to give themselves a more comfortable advantage before the break.
A little past the half-hour mark, a Robson-Kanu-esque turn in the area from Dan Gardner left his defender for dead, but the midfielders resulting effort was rash and blocked with relative ease by the onrushing goalkeeper.
Just as the home supporters were preparing for their half time beverages, no doubt with a tinge of concern at the deficit only being one, their side was gifted with a golden opportunity to double this lead.
In the final of three additional minutes, Evans was shoved down in the box by captain Nathan Thompson and the referee pointed straight to the spot. The goalkeeper, who had already pulled off a number of good stops in the half, dived the right way but O’Shea’s spot kick was too accurate and found the bottom corner.
A quiet opening 15 minutes of the second half saw few chances as Swindon desperately searched for a way back with little success.
Four minutes after the hour mark, however, the contest was as good as over. Ariyibi did brilliantly to reach the byline under pressure before cutting back to Evans, who was left with the simple task of firing home from close range to bring his tally to two goals in as many league games.
By now the home side were enjoying themselves and there was a feel-good factor that had rarely been seen at the Proact over the past year or so.
Yet the game had quietened down considerably following the third goal – an over-pitched strike into the stands from Michael Doughty about as good as it got for Swindon on a very disappointing afternoon for Luke Williams’ side.
That was until the 88th minute, when second half substitute Furlong hammered home a good finish for the 378 travelling supporters behind the goal to enjoy.
However, it proved nothing more than a consolation as the Spireites ran out comfortable winners to get their home league campaign off to the perfect start and send exactly 5,000 home supporters in attendance away with smiles on their faces.
Another man with a smile on his face after the game, unsurprisingly, was the Chesterfield manager. Speaking after the match, Wilson said: “We showed what we can do. We were disciplined in our defensive work, they had very few chances due to our cleverness – we shut down all the avenues and played with our heads.”
“We could’ve had more goals but the goalkeepers made a couple of great saves and we can’t be disappointed with three goals and three points. They were well deserved.”
Discussing last season’s struggles, the 56-year-old said: “We were cr*p at home last season! The back end of last season was tough for lots of players, they were unable to show what they could do because of the dire position we were in. But we’ve started fresh now.”
Finally, discussing the influence of today’s man of the match Evans, Wilson said: “Ched’s a good player. He’s what we expected and I think he will get even better as the season goes on. Maybe I thought it might take him a bit longer to get in to the swing of things but a goal is a confidence booster. When he’s fit he’s the first name on the team sheet.”
The Spireites now look ahead to their next competitive action and they don’t have long to wait, hosting Walsall at the Proact Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Line-up: Ryan Fulton, Paul McGinn, Sam Hird, Gary Liddle, Ian Evatt, Dan Gardner (Dan Jones ’72), Ched Evans (Kristian Dennis ’90), Jon Nolan, Dion Donohue, Jay O’Shea (Reece Mitchell ’82), Gboly Ariyibi
Unused Subs: Charlie Raglan, Conor Dimaio, Rai Simons, Lloyd Allinson
Scorers: Gary Liddle ’23, Jay O’Shea ’45, Ched Evans ’64
Swindon Town (1)
Line-up: Lawrence Vigouroux, Nathan Thompson, Jamie Sendles-White, Conor Thomas, Yaser Kasim, Anton Rodgers, Michael Doughty, Bradley Barry (Darnell Furlong ’57), Brandon Ottewill, Jordan Young (Jordan Stewart ’58), Luke Norris (Jermaine Hylton ’21)
Unused subs: Ellis Iandolo, Jonny Goddard, James Brophy, Will Henry
Scorers: Darnell Furlong ’88
Date: 13th August 2016
Attendance: 5378 (378 away)
Competition: League 1
Referee: Mr Carl Boyeson
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