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Matty Brown scored on his debut before being controversially sent off as 10 man Chesterfield beat Plymouth Argyle 2-0 at the Proact.
Brown headed the Spireites in front before Marc Richards doubled the lead from the spot and another Tommy Lee penalty save secured all three points for Paul Cook’s side.
Brown had only been recalled from his loan spell at Southport 24 hours prior to kick off amid a growing injury crisis at the Proact, as Chesterfield made wholesale changes to the side that beat Oldham in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Ollie Banks and Jimmy Ryan missed out through injury and were replaced in midfield by Sam Hird and Sam Togwell, for the latter to make only his second start of the season.
The ankle knock suffered by Liam Cooper in the Oldham fixture ruled the defender out as Brown partnered Ian Evatt in Chesterfield’s defence.
John Sheridan’s side made three changes to the team that beat non league Welling to progress to the third round of the FA Cup, with Neal Trotman maintaining his position at centre back on his return to North Derbyshire.
In blustery conditions on Whittington Moor, the game sparked into life after five minutes as Ritchie Humphreys’ corner was met at the near post by Armand Gnanduillet, but the Ivorian’s glancing header flew wide of Luke McCormick’s goal.
Plymouth struggled to find a foothold in the game and with the wind behind them Chesterfield’s bright start paid off. Brown rose above the Pilgrims’ defence to connect with Humphreys’ corner and his powerful header left McCormick rooted to the spot, to break the deadlock on nine minutes.
The visitors found difficulty in containing Gnanduillet as the 22-year-old forward linked well with Eoin Doyle and Tendayi Darikwa out wide for Chesterfield.
After 21 minutes Gnanduillet did well to dispossess Dominic Blizzard in midfield and played in Darikwa down the right with a clever pass, only for the winger’s threatening cross to be cleared by Trotman as the Spireites continued to press.
Plymouth found their way into the game and had a notable chance to equalise on the half hour mark, but forward Reuben Reid’s cross could not be converted by Romuald Boco at the back post who saw his shot sail over Tommy Lee’s crossbar.
Moments later Gnanduillet challenged for the ball near the corner flag but his tackle resulted in a suspected dislocated shoulder, with the striker in visible distress. Callum McFadzean replaced was the replacement on 34 minutes as Gnanduillet was taken to hospital, to add Chesterfield’s injury crisis.
After being commended by Paul Cook as ‘like having a new player’ in the week, Tendayi Darikwa impressed down the right hand side.
Five minutes before the break he found Doyle on the edge of the box who cleverly played in Richards. His footwork invited numerous challenges which resulted in referee Andy Haines awarding a penalty for what was adjudged to have been a handball, to the disbelief of the Plymouth defenders.
Richards himself stepped up to take the spot kick and doubled the lead on 42 minutes as McCormick could do nothing to prevent last season’s top scorer from finding the corner.
Plymouth responded well to the setback as Boco capitalised on a defensive slip to find Lewis Alessandra on the edge of the box, but the summer signing from Morecambe had his effort saved well by Lee just before half time.
A further addition to the Spireites’ growing injury list was goal scorer Richards who was replaced at half time by Jay O’Shea, with Leam Richardson confirming the forward had suffered a knock to his foot in the first half.
With the visitors having the advantage of the wind behind them in the second half, the game became more open with both sides creating opportunities.
Drew Talbot appeared to have shaken off a first half knock and did well to find Doyle down the right. The Irishman beat left back Durrell Berry to cross from the byline but the on rushing O’Shea could not convert and a defender cleared for a corner ten minutes into the second half.
Moments later the Pilgrims had a chance of their own as right back Maxime Blanchard crossed to find Reid, but the forward’s effort on the stretch did not trouble Lee who gathered convincingly.
Chesterfield’s defence had been composed in possession until Brown dwelled on the ball for a second too long on 62 minutes.
In his sliding attempt to win back the ball the referee deemed the defender to have fouled Reid in the box and awarded another penalty, handing Brown a straight red card to put a sour taste on the defender’s goal scoring debut.
Reid stepped up to take the penalty but Lee made an excellent save low to his left to continue his exceptional recent penalty record, after saving from the spot against Southend and Oldham in his last two outings.
Despite being a man light the home side played well on the counter attack and limited Plymouth to only a handful of opportunities.
On 75 minutes another Blanchard cross from the right was met by substitute Caolan Lavery, but Lee reacted well to acrobatically palm his header wide of the post and keep a fourth clean sheet in the last five league games.
After the match assistant manager Leam Richardson expressed his delight with Chesterfield’s performance.
He said: ‘The performance was exactly what we asked for. With respect to Plymouth, they’ve got good players and good staff, but as the game panned out with the sending off and the conditions, I think it was a game and a day for discipline and good habits which will see you home, and thankfully they did today.
‘When we went down to ten men you could see the lads digging in for each other and I don’t think anyone left anything out there, I thought everybody gave 110% today.
‘The lads are a but disappointed with the sending off first and foremost, they thought he [Brown] had won the ball and they didn’t think he was the last man but officials make decisions, we can’t change that but we’ll certainly review it when the time is right.
‘It was a great day for the neutrals. The penalties, the penalty saves, the goals, the sending off and the conditions, people putting everything on the line, I don’t think they could ask for much more than that.’
On the performance of Sam Togwell, whose opportunities have been very limited this season, Richardson added: ‘Sam’s stuck to it, he trains really hard everyday, he’s a very good professional and it’s not surprising that he turns up and puts in a performance like that.
The result leaves Chesterfield second in the SkyBet League Two table on 36 points, a point adrift of Oxford United ahead of the trip to Saint James’ Park where the Spireites will play Exeter City on Friday Night before the visit of Hartlepool United on Boxing Day.
Talbot, Evatt, Brown, Humphreys;
Darikwa (McSheffrey ’92), Hird, Togwell, Doyle;
Richards (O’Shea ’45), Gnanduillet (McFadzean 34′).
Subs not used: Chapman, Devitt, Broadhead,
Referee: Mr Andy Haines
Attendance: 5,486 (472 away)