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Ten man Chesterfield came from behind to salvage a 1-1 draw with Exeter City and earn a valuable point in the race for promotion.
Exeter went in front through a Matty Grimes free kick before Eoin Doyle levelled from the penalty spot in the second half.
Sammy Morsy’s season ended after receiving a straight red card in the second half as Chesterfield look to close the two point gap on league leaders Scunthorpe United.
Paul Cook, on his return to the touchline after serving a two-game ban, made one change to the side that won at Hartlepool.
Gary Roberts returned to the starting line up in the place of Daniel Kearns, whose loan deal was extended to the end of the season this week.
Jimmy Ryan served the final game ban of his suspension as Sam Hird partnered Morsy in the heart of midfield.
Paul Tisdale made two changes to his side as he looked to steer the Grecians away from the drop.
The game started at a frantic pace and the visitors had the first sight on goal after three minutes.
Matt Oakley’s corner found Jordan Moore-Taylor whose volley from six yards out was cleared off the line by Eoin Doyle.
The Spireites were quick to respond and Doyle came close to taking the lead for the Spireites as Roberts’ cross from the left flank picked out the former Hibernian striker, only for his volley to be saved well by young goalkeeper Cristy Pym.
Chesterfield’s lively start was a stark contrast to the previous home fixture against Newport County, with the Spireites now dominant in midfield and dangerous from wide areas.
Dan Gardner’s pace on the right hand side took him past left back Craig Woodman with consummate ease to find Marc Richards on the byline, who saw his low cross cleared for a corner on 11 minutes as Chesterfield’s early pressure continued.
Exeter had little in the way of notable spells of possession in the opening exchanges but took the lead against the run of play on 18 minutes.
Liam Cooper fouled recklessly on the edge of the home side’s box to concede a free kick in a dangerous area. 18-year-old midfielder Matt Grimes took the set piece and saw his effort take a deflection off the Chesterfield wall to leave Tommy Lee helpless as the ball veered in to the back of the net, for Grimes’ first career league goal.
Chesterfield initially responded well to the early set back with Roberts instigating play from both the left and right wings, linking well with Morsy and Doyle in an attempt to exploit the defensive line of the League Two strugglers.
Paul Tisdale looked to consolidate the back four with a further centre half as Scott Bennett dropped back from midfield.
The game then dropped in intensity and the Grecians secured a foothold after taking the lead, with the defensive line making it difficult for Chesterfield’s attacking outlets to find an equaliser.
Exeter’s defensive resilience was complemented with threatening counter attacks as Chesterfield let their midfield dominance slip.
On 33 minutes forward John O’Flynn capitalised on a misplaced pass to drive forward at the Spireites’ defence but captain Ian Evatt’s well timed challenge cleared the danger.
In the build up to the match Paul Cook had asked for an edge to his side’s play and to be more clinical in front of goal but Exeter’s impressive defensive organisation limited Chesterfield to few notable opportunities.
Richards came closest for the home side just before half time with a free kick awarded for a foul on Morsy 30 yards from goal, but the 31-year-old striker’s low effort was saved well by Pym.
Paul Cook looked to add more physical presence up front and made two changes at half time, with Armand Gnanduillet and Ritchie Humphreys replacing Gardner and Nathan Smith respectively.
Chesterfield seemed to be an reinvigorated side after the interval and Tendayi Darikwa occupied a more advanced position at right back and delivered a threatening cross which was met by Richards, who saw his flicked header glance just wide of the post on 47 minutes.
Darikwa was again involved only moment later as he burst forward to meet Roberts’ clever through ball, but his left footed effort rose over Pym’s crossbar.
Exeter’s defensive organisation continued and the visiting side had a chance of their own on 51 minutes.
A long ball forward from defence caught the Chesterfield back line unaware and O’Flynn found himself one-on-one with Lee, but his effort was matched by the ‘keeper and forced a corner.
O’Flynn and attacking midfielder Eliot Richards proved to be dangerous throughout the second half and a run forward by the latter lured Evatt into a rash challenge on the edge of Chesterfield’s area on 8 minutes.
Liam Sercombe took the subsequent free kick which deflected off the wall to force a corner as Tisdale’s side looked to push for a second goal.
Chesterfield found difficulty in matching Exeter in the midfield area and substitute Tom Nichols came close to doubling the lead after being played through by Richards who capitalised on sloppy midfield passing.
Richards found Nichols with a clever pass for the forward to make room for a shot with a quick turn, but Lee saved well to his left to keep Chesterfield in the game.
Daniel Kearns replaced Marc Richards on 69 minutes and the Peterborough United loanee was soon involved with a low volley across the face of goal after a Darikwa, but the ball glanced the outside of Pym’s far post.
On 73 minutes the Spireites were reduced to ten men as Morsy dived in with both feet off the ground in a rash tackle on Grimes which earned the 22-year-old midfielder a straight red card from referee Rob Lewis, ending his season with a subsequent three match ban.
Exeter looked to capitalise on their numerical advantage and Nichols came close to doubling the scoreline moments later as he found himself unmarked at the front post to meet Oakley’s corner, but his header came off Lee’s far post.
Chesterfield had a rare spell in Exeter’s box on 76 minutes which led to Doyle going to ground after a clumsy challenge by Danny Butterfield to win a penalty and a much needed lifeline for the home side.
Doyle stepped up and took the spot kick and send the ‘keeper the wrong way to equalise with his twelfth of the season to give hope to the majority of the 7,331 in attendance.
A frantic end to the game saw Lee again save Chesterfield a point as has been the case countless times this season as the former Manchester United prospect made an excellent save from Bennett’s volley from only yards out on 84 minutes.
Roberts came agonisingly close to snatching all three points in the final minutes as he connected with Darikwa’s deep cross to volley into the side netting.
Despite what many will see as two points dropped against a side fighting against relegation, the result lifted Chesterfield to second in the table, two points behind Scunthorpe and three points ahead of Fleetwood in the play-off places.
After the match, Paul Cook gave his take on the game. The Chesterfield manager said: ‘It was disappointing because I felt we didn’t play well. I thought we gave a very honest performance in terms of effort and desire and application, but I felt at times we were always second best to a team who obviously dominated the middle of the pitch.
‘In modern day football if you give up the middle of the pitch you’ll struggle to get the ball back and that’s what happened to us at times today.
‘We thought we’d started ok but goals change games. Unfortunately for us we just have a habit, like we showed last week against Hartlepool and down at Wimbledon, there are games where we concede the first goal and it’s disappointing.
‘It wasn’t a great day for us in terms of penetration and quality, we lacked that today and it was disappointing.
‘I think it’s a great point, any points at the minute are good points. It’s a point nearer where we want to be, it’s a point more than we had this morning and we’ve moved up a place in the league.
‘All we can do is keep going, it’s so important that we do that.’
Chesterfield travel to Dagenhgam and Redbridge on Easter Monday ahead of a trip to Burton before the visit of Fleetwood on the final day of the season, as Paul Cook’s side look to secure promotion to SkyBet League One.