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Chesterfield were held to a 0-0 draw by Rochdale to record a first clean sheet of the new season and secure a respectable seventh point from a possible 12.
Both goalkeepers produced eye catching displays to keep the tie goalless, with Josh Lillis denying Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s golden opportunity seconds before Tommy Lee prevailed in a one-on-one with Dale talisman Donal McDermott at the end of the first half.
Each side created several opportunities to steal the points on a wet afternoon at the Proact in a far from dull goalless draw, but a combination of fatigue from a hectic early season schedule and the excellence of both stoppers saw a share of the points.
McDermott was the first to have a sight on goal, breaking forward after four minutes to unleash a venomous strike bound for the target but Sam Hird did enough to divert the effort round Lee’s post.
A former Spireite loanee during his time with Manchester City, McDermott has found his feet with Rochdale after losing his way in non-league and was a threat throughout the match with his influence from midfield alongside skipper Jamie Allen.
Chesterfield captain Sam Morsy looked to combat the enterprise of McDermott and embarked on a now trademark run forward to force an early corner.
After an even opening ten minutes which saw both sides enjoy spells of possession, McDermott was again involved when he found winger Peter Vincenti, the winger’s shot from the edge pf the box rebounded to Joseph Bunney but his shot was diverted for a corner on 22 minutes.
From the subsequent corner, Bunney saw his volleyed effort blocked again blocked, this time by O’Shea who operated in midfield alongside Ángel Martínez and Lee Novak, both of whom were making their home debuts for the club.
Chesterfield spent the large majority of the first half in comfort but lacked pace and creativity in the final third to break down the visitors’ defence.
Rochdale’s joy down the right continued when McDermott broke forward and pulled the ball back across the face of goal, but there was no white shirt in the six yard box to convert.
A lethargic first half burst into life just before half time when Morsy played in Novak down the right flank for the Birmingham loanee to deliver a threatening ball across the face of goal and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s header prompted a wonderful save by Lillis.
Straight down the other end McDermott found himself one-on-one with Lee who matched Lillis’ brilliance, making himself big to save the Irishman’s effort.
Dale again threatened Lee’s goal just after the interval when right back Joe Rafferty delivered a threatening ball for forward Ian Henderson to clip just wide of the front post.
Novak’s influence from the right wing grew in the second half and the former Huddersfield man was involved in an intricate passage of play with Ebanks-Blake and Dan Gardner who returned the ball to Chesterfield’s new number 11, but his effort flew straight into the grasp of Lillis.
The game’s end-to-end nature continued and Henderson capitalised on a lapse of concentration by Hird to break free on goal, but Lee was alert to rush out and block the forward’s shot.
Gardner made way for the exciting Gboly Ariyibi on 62 minutes and the former Southampton prospect was soon involved, linking well with Jay O’Shea for the latter to drill the ball in from the right but Dale’s defence did well to clear the danger.
Novak took a nasty blow to the face and was forced off on 75 minutes to be replaced by Ollie Banks, who had lost his place in the side to the impressive Ángel Martínez who showed composure and comfort in possession and a positional awareness that has been highlighted by his manager since his arrival at the club last week.
Despite several half chances, neither side could break the deadlock with Lee punching clear a McDermott free kick and substitute Ashley Eastham heading wide before Ariyibi danced his way to the byline in the 90th minute but opted to shoot when finding the queue of blue shirts in the box could have stolen the win.
Full Time: Chesterfield 0-0 Rochdale
After the match, Spireites boss Dean Saunders was content with earning a point.
He said: “I thought it was a great game to watch, it was a good nil-nil. We weren’t our usual selves in the first half, we were just a yard short all over the pitch. We weren’t doing things quickly enough, we weren’t moving the ball quickly enough.
“You’re going to get games like that, they’re playing Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday and the level of performance has been so high that today in the first half we were just a little bit short but we were much better in the second half.
“We created enough chances today but they had chances as well, Tommy [Lee] made three or four great saves so well done to him.
“It was a day for the goalkeepers today, a good game to watch and a first clean sheet for us so I’m really pleased about that and I think Rochdale will be up there at the end of the season so when we look back I think that will be a good point.
“We could’ve won but they could’ve as well so I thought at the end of the day it was a fair result.”
25 Talbot, 6 Evatt, 4 Hird, 3 Jones;
7 Gardner (Ariyibi, 64’), 5 Morsy ©, 8 Ángel, 10 O’Shea;
9 Ebanks-Blake (Gnanduillet, 86’), 11 Lee Novak (Banks, 76’).
Subs: 32 Cairns, 15 Humphreys, 16 Raglan, 24 Banks, 17 Gnanduillet, 28 Harrison, 18 Harrison
2 Rafferty, 6 Lancashire (Eastham, 59’), 4 McNulty, 33 Kennedy;
24 Allen, 12 McDermott ©;
7 Vincenti, 28 Camps (Bennett, 59’), 39 Bunney (Andrew, 39’);
Subs: 3 Bennett, 5 Eastham, 9 Andrew, 10 Alessandra, 17 Tanser, 23 Collis, 25 Rose.
Attendance: 6,254 (389 away)
Referee: Keith Hill