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Ten man Chesterfield held on for a point with a battling display against Dagenham and Redbridge at the Proact, to stay top of SkyBet League Two.
The Spireites were reduced to ten men when Sam Hird saw red in the first half before Marc Richards gave the home side the lead with a penalty just after the break.
Dagenham had missed a penalty of their own before captain Abu Ogogo drew level with an unstoppable shot to hand Chesterfield a second successive draw.
Paul Cook stuck with the side that drew against Hartlepool on Boxing Day, with only one change to the bench as Jamie Devitt, whose contract expires on New Year’s Eve, replaced Matty Brown.
The Daggers looked to record their first clean sheet of the season away from Victoria Park, with the division’s top scorer Rhys Murphy starting up front as Wayne Burnett made three changes to his side.
Sam Togwell continued his run in the starting 11 alongside Ollie Banks in midfield and the former soon tested Daggers ‘keeper Chris Lewington with a low effort after a knock down by Armand Gnanduillet on three minutes, as Chesterfield started the brighter.
The forward partnership of Richards and Gnanduillet proved effective in the opening half hour.
A long ball forward was flicked on by Richards into space for Gnanduillet, who played in Tendayi Darikwa down the right only for the 22-year-old’s shot to be matched by Lewington who tipped over for a corner.
The visitors’ former England Under-21 winger Zavon Hines caused Chesterfield problems throughout the first half. A mazy run down the right hand side beat Eoin Doyle and Ritchie Humphreys, only for the subsequent cross to be cleared to safety by Ian Evatt after 16 minutes.
Darikwa again came close to taking the lead after a lay off from Richards, but the winger’s driven effort from the edge of the box was saved well by Lewington on 18 minutes.
Dagenham began to create more meaningful spells of possession as the half drew on. A corner from Northern Ireland Under-21 international Sean Sheilds was flicked on across the face of goal by defender Scott Doe but the ball evaded the crowded box for the visitors’ first attempt on goal.
Moments later a cross from right back Gavin Hoyte caught Ian Evatt defending on the wrong side of Hines in the Chesterfield penalty area. The Spireites’ captain hauled down the winger and referee Richard Clark pointed to the spot on 32 minutes, brandishing a yellow card to Evatt for his fifth of the season, resulting in a one match suspension.
Hines himself stepped up to take the spot kick but missed well wide of a Tommy Lee’s left post to an eruption of jeers from the majority of the 5,906 in attendance.
Only minutes later in an almost carbon copy passage of play, Ogogo played a long ball over Evatt and Sam Hird with the on rushing Murphy controlling the ball to send himself through on goal. Hird raced to challenge but clipped the trailing leg of the striker on the edge of the box as the last man.
The referee reached straight for his pocket and dismissed Hird on 35 minutes, to add to Chesterfield’s suspension and injury woes.
The impressive Darikwa was forced to make way for Liam Cooper as Paul Cook looked to see out the first half without conceding.
The one man advantage soon gave Dagenham the impetus and Luke Howell somehow squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead. Another Hines run down the right resulted in a pinpoint cross only for Howell to head the ball wide from yards out.
The game saw further controversy as Paul Cook was sent to the stands by the referee at half time, for what was reported to be dissent.
Nathan Smith replaced Banks at the break to make his first appearance since August after suffering a recurrence of an ankle injury as Chesterfield looked to consolidate the defence after Hird’s sending off.
Only minutes into the second half Chesterfield won a penalty of their own as a Smith cross from the left was adjudged to have been handled by defender Brian Saah.
Richards stepped up to take the penalty and slotted the ball past Lewington into the bottom corner for his seventh goal of the season on 48 minutes.
The game became wide open with both sides creating clear cut opportunities. Wayne Burnett’s side came closest when Murphy connected with a Jack Connors cross, but the striker’s header sailed just over Lee’s crossbar.
On 58 minutes Ogogo drew Dagenham level with an unstoppable curling shot from the corner of the area. The former Arsenal prospect received the ball on the turn before guiding the ball over the outstretched Lee to cancel out Richards’ opener.
Gnanduillet made way for Jay O’Shea on the hour mark and the Irishman was soon involved, delivering a cross to Richards who played in Doyle through on goal, but the former Hibernian forward could not direct the ball past the on rushing Lewington, who parried for a corner.
After another chance was created by Hines, O’Shea again found himself in space to deliver a threatening cross to Richards but last season’s top scorer could not direct his header either side of the ‘keeper, with Lewington making a comfortable save.
Dagenham restricted Chesterfield to hopeful shots from distance and Doyle had two further half chances to score a winner, but Lewington continued to impress in this visitors’ goal.
With only minutes to go, another long ball by Dagenham almost proved costly as a mix up between Lee and Cooper led to Murphy getting between the two to chip and leave Lee scrambling back to his goal. The effort hit the post to the dismay of the former Arsenal trainee.
Chesterfield held on to earn a hard fought point, to the delight of Assistant Manager Leam Richardson.
The 34-year-old said: ‘I think it’s fair to say that [it was a hard fought point] with the sending off so early and a couple of decisions going against us. I think you’ve got to take a point and shake hands and move on.
‘From our point of view, I think the first half was very disappointing. The way we played, the way we went about our business, I think the manager has let our players know that it’s not like us or the standards we’ve set. We’re top of the league, I think it must be better.
‘From our point of view, the game was at home so the onus is on us to take the game to teams but I felt like we didn’t do that in the first half. I know the sending off affected it, we had to consolidate and reshuffle but on reflection the lads came out and were commendable in the second half.’
The result leaves Chesterfield top of SkyBet League Two, above Scunthorpe and Burton on goal difference.
Richardson added: ‘It’s a great achievement for the lads to be top of the table at Christmas, they’ve worked really hard. The manager has said the hard work starts now going in to the new year. We’ve played everybody now once, we’ll go again. I think it’s important that the lads regroup and the work ethic is maintained and the standards are maintained.’
Chesterfield travel to Sixfields to take on managerless Northampton Town on New Year’s Day, where the Spireites will be without the suspended Ian Evatt and Sam Hird.
Talbot, Evatt (c), Hird (sent off ’35), Humphreys;
Darikwa (Cooper ’37), Togwell, Banks (Smith ’45), Doyle;
Richards, Gnanduillet (O’Shea ’61).
Subs not used: Mason, McFadzean, Devitt, McSheffrey.