Read via the Chesterfield Post
Chesterfield ground out a 0-0 draw with Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park to earn a valuable point in their pursuit of a League One play-off place.
In a game which lacked anywhere near the attacking flare and excitement seen in the 6-0 demolition of Colchester United on Tuesday night, the Spireites did enough to increase the gap from fellow play-off chasers Rochdale to seven points on a far from accommodating pitch at Boundary Park.
Paul Cook made two changes to the side which recorded the resounding 6-0 score line, with Sam Hird reporting a last minute thigh strain and Drew Talbot replaced by Charlie Raglan and Dan Jones respectively.
Oldham caretaker boss and former Spireite Dean Holden was forced to name a weakened side from an injury depleted squad, with Domonic Poelon, Rhys Turner and Adam Lockwood all missing from the side which drew to Coventry in midweek.
Chesterfield looked to start brightly and Gary Roberts was soon involved from his position in the middle berth of an attacking midfield trio and found Daniel Jones bursting down the left flank with a clever pass, but the left back’s cross was gathered comfortably by 19-year-old ‘keeper Joel Coleman.
Neither side was able to find a natural rhythm on an unforgiving surface and Latics defender Anthony Gerrard was thieved of the ball by Roberts when dwelling in possession. The Chesterfield winger could have found Sam Clucas in a threatening position down the left hand side but was unable to produce a pass to set the summer capture from Mansfield through on goal.
Oldham were soon to record a chance of their own when Ian Evatt mistimed a leap to clear with his head and forward Rhys Murphy found himself clear on goal. Jones again showcased his blistering pace and awareness to get back and deny Murphy a golden one-on-one opportunity to take the lead on 16 minutes.
Murphy’s opportunity set the home side alight and the flurry of opportunities which followed found Chesterfield on the back foot.
On 19 minutes Raglan cleared a Carl Winchester cross only to find Connor Brown unmarked on the edge of the box, the left back’s thundering volley demanded an acrobatic save from Tommy Lee who tipped round the post.
The resulting corner was fumbled by Lee and the subsequent phase of play saw Raglan, whose absence from the starting 11 in recent weeks was unnoticeable, deny Tim Dieng a sight of goal with a well-timed header.
Chesterfield found themselves being dominated by Oldham’s direct style of play and struggled to escape their own half to such an extent that Paul Cook made an early tactical change, replacing Gardner with Armand Gnanduillet on 20 minutes.
Again Lee was called into action as Tendayi Darikwa’s attempted clearance ricocheted back into the box for Murphy to volley, Evatt stretched to block but the clearance again found the striker whose bicycle kick effort prompted an instinctive save by Lee on 28 minutes.
Neither side looked like breaking the deadlock after Oldham’s quick succession of chances. Chesterfield’s front line of O’Shea, Roberts Gnanduillet and Clucas could not employ their customary intricate style of play in front of the defence due to a testing surface.
Neither side made a change at the break but it was Chesterfield who started the brighter after the interval.
Captain Sam Morsy was soon to earn a free kick for after a bursting run down the left flank invited a foul. O’Shea delivered a teasing cross to the back post only for it to be cleared by right back Brian Wilson.
Jimmy Ryan was the next to record a half chance after Clucas cut in from the left to tee up the midfielder, only for his effort to fly high and wide in a strike which epitomised Chesterfield’s fortune in front of goal.
Although Cook’s side secured a stronger foothold in the game in the second half but their dominance in possession and territory could not be converted into goals.
George Elokobi and Jordan Bove replaced Gerrard and Murphy respectively for Oldham and shortly after the substitutions Chesterfield saw their best chances of the game.
On 81 minutes a Gary Roberts corner found Gnanduillet whose header found its way back to Roberts. His drilled ball in was volleyed by Evatt from six yards only for Coleman to produce an instinctive save and clear.
Only moments later another Roberts cross found Clucas whose glancing header hit the post and bounced into the path of Gnanduillet but his effort from a tight angle sailed over the bar.
Clucas was again involved on 87 minutes when his fizzing volley prompted a fine save by Coleman to round off a fine display by the young stopper and deny Chesterfield all three points which would have guaranteed a play-off spot.
Rochdale’s loss to Gillingam puts Chesterfield firmly in the driving seat with Chesterfield now requiring a maximum of two points from their remaining two games, should Rochdale win all of their remaining three, to secure a play-off place.
After the match Cook gave his thoughts on a lacklustre game. He said: ‘From very early on it was very apparent that the pitch wasn’t very good in any shape or form for football. We had to make a change early on in the game, it was a very poor game to watch.
‘It was a poor spectacle for supporters but it is a point, we’re still unbeaten in our run in and we look forward now to a massive game against Bristol City that can excite all our supporters knowing now that we can seal our own fate.
‘It was a test of our character today because it must have been painful for the supporters to watch. Great credit to our supporters. All in all it’s not a bad day for us.’
13 Joel Coleman
20 Brian Wilson, 24 Anthony Gerrard (5 Elokobi 75’), 16 James Wilson, 2 Connor Brown;
6 Liam Kelly ©, 8 Mike Jones, 4 Tim Dieng, 15 Carl Winchester, 10 Daniel Philliskirk;
39 Rhys Murphy (29 Bove 75’)
Subs not used: 25 Kean, 12 Mellor, 18 Lockwood, 31 Tuohy, 32 Jacbos
1 Tommy Lee;
2 Tendayi Darkiwa, 23 Ian Evatt, 16 Charlie Raglan, 3 Daniel Jones;
8 Jimmy Ryan, 5 Sam Morsy;
7 Dan Gardner (9 Armand Gnanduillet 20’), 10 Jay O’Shea, 11 Gary Roberts;
12 Sam Clucas
Subs not used: 32 Jon Flatt, 6 Ashley Carter, 15 Ritchie Humphries, 24 Ollie Banks, 28 Gboly Ariyibi, 18 Byron Harrison