Read via the Chesterfield Post
Dean Saunders’ tenure as Chesterfield manager got off to a flying start with a 3-1 demolition of Barnsley at the Proact.
Goals from Jay O’Shea, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Sam Morsy saw the Spireites recover from an early Conor Wilkinson strike to give Saunders an ideal beginning to his reign as Blues boss.
A stellar second-half performance saw Chesterfield dominate Barnsley and kill off any threat from the Tykes’ dangerous forward partnering of Wilkinson and Sam Winnall as the Spireites embark on their 2015/16 League One campaign.
Morsy captained the side with Ollie Banks his partner in the centre of midfield while Ebanks-Blake made his competitive debut in blue, as Drew Talbot continued his return to match fitness at right-back.
Barnsley manager Lee Johnson’s youthful starting XI saw 17-year-old Arsenal loanee Dan Crowley as one of five in midfield.
The game started at a blistering pace and Crowley was soon involved, picking up a loose ball and powering the Tykes forward on the counter attack.
The 17-year-old found Wilkinson whose well timed run evaded the offside trap for the forward to beat Tommy Lee one-on-one from the edge of the box, with just four minutes on the clock.
Chesterfield 0-1 Barnsley (Wilkinson, 4’)
But Saunders’s side recovered quickly from a nightmare start, with Gboly Ariyibi linking well with Dan Jones down the left flank for the full-back to produce a teasing delivery across the face of goal, as Ebanks-Blake lurked in the six yard box.
Barnsley’s early pressure continued and the forward duo of Winnall and Wilkinson proved a handful for Ian Evatt and Sam Hird.
Winnall saw a hastily taken effort from the edge of the box gathered comfortably by Tommy Lee as Chesterfield looked to secure a foothold in the game.
Operating down the right flank, Dan Gardner found Hird at the back post with a deep cross but the latter’s header was cleared to safety as the Tyke’s resilient back line stood fast.
Barnsley’s central midfield trio pressed well to cause difficulty for Chesterfield’s passing game which saw Saunders revert to a more direct style of play, with O’Shea dropping into midfield for Banks to push forward in the hope of winning aerial duels to serve Ebanks-Blake, who looked lively throughout the first half.
Crowley demonstrated why the Oakwell club were so delighted to be chosen by Arsenal as a development stage in his fledgling career, maintaining possession well despite the best efforts of Banks and Morsy to disposess the youngster.
Ariyibi again proved a threat down the left flank and had the better of wing-back Josh Scowen on several occasions, and on the half-hour mark the young winger burst down the left flank as far as the byline prompting a corner.
Nothing came of Ariyibi’s enterprise as the Spireites struggled to breach Barnsley’s defence and Winnall and Wilkinson soon linked up again on the half-hour mark, with the latter breaching the offside trap only for Morsy to make a vital last ditch challenge.
The battle between Evatt and Wilkinson continued with the big defender booked for a block on the Bolton loanee who would have been clear on goal.
Conor Hourihane’s subsequent free kick found the head of centre-back Marc Roberts but his effort glanced wide as Barnsley threatened to double the lead.
The Spireites were unlucky to go in for half time a goal down, with Barnsley’s well organised defence denying Ebanks-Blake a sight on goal with several deliveries aimed in the 29-year-old’s direction.
Half Time: Chesterfield 0-1 Barnsley
Chesterfield started the second period as they had finished the first and their pressure paid off on 49 minutes.
Jones hared down the left flank and delivered a cross to the feet of Ebanks-Blake whose trademark swivel in the six yard box allowed him to find O’Shea, for the Irishman to take a touch and bury his effort in the top corner.
Chesterfield 1-1 Barnsley (O’Shea, 49’)
The goal confirmed the Spireites’ influence and Barnsley were far from the side which had burst out of the starting gates in the first half.
O’Shea’s understanding with Ebanks-Blake was clear to the eye with the pair linking well throughout the second period.
The Irishman saw a shot blocked before Ebanks-Blake’s sliding effort to convert Ariyibi’s cross sailed over the crossbar.
Barnsley could offer little in terms of meaningful possession with Chesterfield now in full control of proceedings, and the Spireites soon capitalised.
Gardner’s corner on 70 minutes found Ebanks-Blake with his back to goal for the striker to turn and unleash a powerful shot, leaving Davies with no chance.
Chesterfield 2-1 Barnsley (Ebanks-Blake, 70’)
The signing of the summer to date produced a debut performance which offered a lesson in persistence after a first half baron of service, while showing why he is twice winner of the Championship’s golden boot with a classy finish and simultaneously igniting O’Shea into life with impressive link up play.
Only moments later the former Manchester United trainee again had the ball at his feet after capitalising on loose play in Barnsley’s midfield and set up Morsy.
The captain produced a composed finish from 18 yards which found the top corner as Chesterfield wrapped up the victory.
Chesterfield 3-1 Barnsley (Morsy, 73’)
Barnsley looked a well beaten side with a Conor Hourihane free-kick the only opportunity of note in a second half performance which lacked the pace and energy of their blistering start.
The dangerous Ariyibi went off with a standing ovation to be replaced by Mani Dieseruvwe as Saunders ran down the clock on his first victory as Chesterfield manager.
After the match, Saunders was keen to stress that he will remain level headed despite the impressive victory.
“I’m pleased that we came back from a goal down.” Said the 51-year-old. “I think we played well from the start of the game right the way through.”
“They scored after three minutes so it was the worst possible start you could get but even before they scored we were playing well and after they scored we started playing well again. We had loads and loads of chances and their ‘keeper kept them in the game.
“But they looked dangerous on the counter attack, they have got some good young players but I’m not getting carried away with that. They had far too many chance for my liking but I can’t complain; we played really well.
It’s the first game and even if we had lost today I wouldn’t have got too down in the dumps but because we’ve won I’m not going to get too up in the sky about it.”
Chesterfield travel to Carlisle on Tuesday night for the first round of the Capital One Cup before a visit to Bramall Lane on Saturday to play Sheffield United as Saunders looks to maintain his side’s early season momentum.
25 Talbot (16 Raglan, 75’), 4 Hird, 6 Evatt, 3 Jones
7 Gardner, 5 Morsy ©, 24 Banks, 28 Ariyibi (26 Dieseruvwe, 90+3’);
10 O’Shea, 9 Ebanks-Blake (17 Gnanduillet, 80’).
Subs: 32 Cairns, 15 Humphreys, 18 Harrison, 21 Onovwigun.
26 Mawson ©, 5 Nyatanga, 3 Smith;
4 Roberts, 7 Scowen, 19 Pearson, 8 Hourihane, 21 Crowley;
9 Winnall, 18 Wilkinson.
Subs: 13 Townsend, 15 Watkins, 19 Rothwell, 16 Maris, 22 Williams, 14 Digby, 25 Phenix.