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Chesterfield continued their good start to the season with a second successive league win, beating Mark Yates’ Cheltenham 2-0 at the Proact Stadium.
Goals from home debutants Gary Roberts and Eoin Doyle secured the win for Paul Cook’s side, but the Spireites manager described the victory as ‘anything but comfortable’ after a nervy second half performance.
Chesterfield made two changes to the side that narrowly lost at Elland Road in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night, with Jay O’Shea and Marc Richards replacing Tendayi Darikwa and Eoin Doyle in the starting eleven.
Richards played as the lone striker in front of O’Shea, Gary Roberts and Ritchie Humphreys in Paul Cook’s preferred formation of 4-2-3-1, and the combination soon proved to be effective as Richards’ header, off a cross from the left by Roberts, narrowly missed Scott Brown’s far post for the first chance of the match.
Chesterfield continued to dominate and slick passing moves initiated by holding midfielders Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan troubled the Robins’ questionable defence throughout the first half.
Cheltenham, after beating Crawley 4-3 in their league cup tie, struggled to find a foothold in the game and could only respond with a half chance as striker Byron Harrison’s attempt from distance rolled comfortably wide of Tommy Lee’s far post on 10 minutes.
Lee was soon involved in a Chesterfield attack as the former Manchester United ‘keeper distributed well with a throw to find Marc Richards unmarked in Cheltenham’s half, the striker’s through ball to the on rushing Gary Roberts was excellently cut out by centre back Troy Brown with a sliding tackle after 13 minutes.
The Whaddon Road side found it difficult to deal with Roberts for the majority of the game and another whipped-in cross from the left found Richards, but the Spireites’ top scorer from last season could not find the target with a weak header.
Ryan Edwards again partnered Sam Hird in the heart of the Chesterfield defence and the on-loan Blackburn youngster did well to deny Cheltenham their first real opportunity, as a teasing cross from right-back Sido Jombati towards the head of Terry Gornell was cleared to safety.
After several clear-cut chances were wasted by the home side, Chesterfield took the lead after 22 minutes. A neat interchange between Jay O’Shea and Marc Richards set Roberts through on goal, the 29-year-old beat two defenders before slotting the ball past the Cheltenham ‘keeper to score his first of the season.
The Spireites should have quickly doubled the lead; Morsy picked out Nathan Smith down the left wing with a diagonal ball from midfield, the left back’s cross found Roberts at the back post but the former Swindon man’s scuffed volley bobbled out for a goal kick.
Cheltenham were able to suppress Chesterfield’s midfield five in the latter stages of the first half and created some opportunities of their own.
Winger Sam Deering pressed the ball well to force a mistake from the usually dependable Nathan Smith; the left-back’s weak pass back fell into the path of Byron Harrison, but the forward’s shot was excellently cleared off the line by Ryan Edwards just before the break.
Smith’s frustrations were obvious as the 26-year-old made a rash challenge on Cheltenham captain Russ Penn to earn a booking from referee Michael Bull.
Tendayi Darikwa came on for Smith at half time, with Ritchie Humprehys filling in at left back.
Chesterfield’s excellent first half performance appeared to have been forgotten at half time as the Spireites started the second half lethargically, unable to move the ball with the intent that created so many chances before the interval.
Slack play from both sides lead to frustration from the Chesterfield bench and Mark Yates’ side were unfortunate not to draw level as Troy Brown’s well taken header was disallowed after 55 minutes, the defend adjudged offside by the linesman.
Another opportunity fell to the Robins soon after as Byron Harrison picked up the ball on the edge of Chesterfield’s box, before beating captain Drew Talbot easily only for Tommy Lee to dive at the feet of the former AFC Wimbledon forward, and clear the ball to safety.
Marc Richards made way for Eoin Doyle after 65 minutes and the recent signing from Hibernian made an instant impact, linking well with Tendayi Darikwa on the edge of the box to set up the winger with a one-on-one but Brown did well to parry the ball away and deny the winger his first of the campaign.
With the introduction of Doyle, Jay O’Shea found himself more involved in proceedings. The two Irishmen linked well on 74 minutes, with Doyle playing through O’Shea but the latter’s shot from a tight angle was dealt with comfortably by Brown.
On 85 minutes midfielder Sam Togwell was introduced by Paul Cook to replace O’Shea, the 25-year-old winger received a deserved standing ovation as he left the pitch.
Togwell found Gary Roberts in midfield on 90 minutes and the Liverpudlian embarked on a trademark run at the Cheltenham defence before laying off Eoin Doyle on the edge of the box, the striker’s shot deflected off defender Craig Braham-Barrett into the bottom corner to secure all three points for Chesterfield.
After the match Paul Cook expressed his relief at scoring the elusive second goal.
The Chesterfield manager said: “It was anything but comfortable. You have to give great credit to Cheltenham; Mark’s teams are very strong and powerful with good players.
“At one nil the game was never safe and in fact, if you were being truthful, in the second half you always felt that Cheltenham were going to get the next goal.
“The good thing for us was that we got the second goal just at that stage of the game where it probably took the life out of Cheltenham.
“To get a win over any team in this league is tough and to have two wins on the bounce we’re really pleased.”
The win leaves Chesterfield third in the SkyBet League Two table, with a trip to Spotland to face Keith Hill’s Rochdale next Saturday where the Spireites will be looking to continue their early season momentum.
Talbot (c), Hird, Edwards, Smith (Darikwa 45′);
O’Shea (Togwell 85′), Roberts, Humphreys;
Richards (Doyle 65′).
Subs not used: Chapman, Cooper, Gnanduillet, Brown
Jombati, Brown, Elliot, Braham-Barrett;
Deering (Kotwica 78′), Richards, Penn (c), McGlashlan;
Harrison, Gornell (Vincent 52′).
Subs not used: Roberts, Lowe, Taylor, Inniss, Jones