Match Report: Chesterfield 2-0 Bristol Rovers

Read via the Chesterfield Post

Chesterfield put their goal drought to an end after a convincing 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers, with Jay O’Shea and Armand Gnanduillet on target for the Spireites.

The goal scoring problem was an issue that manager Paul Cook acknowledged in the week leading up to the match, and Jay O’Shea made a statement of intent with an unstoppable strike just after the break, for his fifth of the season.

Armand Gnanduillet soon doubled the lead for Chesterfield after creating space for himself with some clever footwork in the box, complemented by a composed finish from a difficult angle to beat keeper Steve Mildenhall on 72 minutes.

Cook made two changes following the agonising last minute defeat to Cheltenham at Whaddon Road in the week; Drew Talbot, suffering from a virus, was replaced by Richard Brindley and Marc Richards dropped to the bench in place of leading goal scorer Jack Lester.

Gnanduillet partnered Lester up front in a 4-4-2 formation, which provided the movement in possession and penetration which was a key aspect needed to end the goal shortage that Cook highlighted in his interview with The Chesterfield Post in the week.

In what was a lethargic opening 15 minutes the Gas had the only notable opportunity; Eliot Richards found himself in space 25 yards out with 8 minutes on the clock and unleashed a thunderous strike, met by what Paul Cook described as a ‘world class’ fingertip save by Tommy Lee, deflecting the ball onto the inside of the post before it bounced back across the goal line and span out for a corner.

Lee’s excellence was seen by some as a turning point in the match, with Chesterfield finding a secure foothold from then on. An intricate passage of play between Nathan Smith, captain Sam Hird and Conor Townsend led to a corner delivered by the latter, which found Hird unmarked at the back post but his subsequent header was straight at Mildenhall, causing the on loan Millwall keeper few problems.

Ivorian striker Gnanduillet was dominant in the air throughout the game, and provided a different type of attacking outlet from that found with Richards and Lester playing together. On 40 minutes he capitalised on a poor touch by former Sheffield United midfield John-Joe O’Toole in the centre circle and played the ball into the path of Jay O’Shea, whose cross was met by Sam Hird but again his header was dealt with by Mildenhall and cleared for a corner.

Hird’s attempt epitomised the first half for Chesterfield; plenty of possession but lacking a decisive final ball and finish.

Chesterfield started the second half with more assertion. On 47 minutes right back Richard Brindley drove into the box and fizzed a threatening low cross across the face of goal but it was dealt with well by the Rovers defence.

Five minutes later Jay O’Shea intercepted a poor clearance by Mark McChrystal around twenty yards out and unleashed a fierce shot with the outside of his right foot into the top right hand corner, leaving the keeper with no chance.

O’Shea’s goal knocked the confidence of the visitors and the Spirites really started to dominate proceedings from then on. A Conor Townsend free kick on 61 minutes found Neal Trotman towering at the back post, his header across the face of the goal had the keeper beaten but went narrowly wide of the far post.

Rovers could produce very little in response and resorted to occasional hopeful efforts from distance – nothing that would force Lee into making a save – due mainly to the efforts of Liam Cooper and Neal Trotman in the heart of the defence, a partnership that received high praise from their goalkeeper after the match.

Tendayi Darikwa came on for Jack Lester on 72 minutes to make his first appearance at the Proact since his double hernia injury, and was greeted by an ovation from the 4,814 in attendance. Lester benefitted from the physical presence of strike partner Gnanduillet and was reluctant to be substituted, clearly still hungry for goals at the age of 37.

Shortly after the substitution, Gnanduillet turned a defender on the edge of the six yard box and slotted the ball beyond the reach of Mildenhall into the bottom corner to score his second goal in English football, much to the delight of the crowd and teammate Jay O’Shea, who said after the match that the pair had been doing work after training to build a relationship and understand each other’s game.

The only chance of the second half for Rovers again fell to Eliot Richards, a low drive to Tommy Lee’s near post saw the Yorkshireman get down well to ensure a third clean sheet in six games.

Gnanduillet was moving gingerly after his goal and was substituted on 79 minutes for Marc Richards, with the game all but won. Richards’ only notable contribution was an interchange with goal scorer O’Shea on 85 minutes, the one two leading to O’Shea having a shot tipped over for a corner.

Cook was pleased with his side’s confidence boosting performance.

‘The first fifteen minutes apart I thought it was very compact, very strong and very good.

‘It took a world class save from Tommy Lee to keep us in it. From there we just started growing into the game and passing the ball and moving.

‘A fantastic first goal from Jay O’Shea and the second goal is a great goal from Armand. It set us up for a nice win against a team on a fantastic run, who were scoring goals freely, so we’re really pleased.’

The victory sees Paul Cook’s side climb to 12th in the League 2 table, 9 points off the play-off places with 9 games left to play this season.

The Spireites travel to the Kassam Stadium next Saturday to face Oxford who sit in tenth in the league, two points above Chesterfield. Town took all three points the last time the teams met in November – winning 2-1 – and a win is a must if Chesterfield are to keep their slim chances of reaching the play-offs alive.

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