In added time Darren Oldaker became the Spireites’ 12th goalscorer of the season when he hit home from 12 yards to seal an unlikely 2-1 win at Maidstone that kept Chesterfield top of the table and clinched a new club record with a ten-match unbeaten start to the season.
An incredible three points for the Spireites who, in all honesty, went ahead late in the game against the run of play. The home side came back and deservedly levelled through substitute Alabi. A point each would have been fair but since when has football been fair? Jez Uchegbulam decided that there was still time to clinch the win and burst down the left with such ridiculous pace and set up the finale…….a last-gasp winner that epitomised the fight and spirit that exists in this squad that knows how to gain vital points when they looked least likely.
The Spireites started having yet to taste defeat against this incarnation of a Maidstone side; four years ago the game at the Gallagher Stadium ended all-square after a late Spireites’ leveller but Chesterfield romped home by four goals to one in the return fixture. The Stones were subsequently relegated at the end of the season back to the National League but have returned after just a three-year absence.
The Stones’ recent form has been mixed: last time out they lost decisively at Bromley and at kick-off sat in 15th place in the NL table; on the same day the Spireites produced a below-par show and had to settle for a hard-fought draw at Yeovil after twice coming from behind – however the point picked up meant that the team became the only undefeated side in the division.
A full week’s break meant there was chance for some of the aches and pains to have eased and Paul Cook, the recent recipient of the National League Manager of the Month award, had some big decisions to make. The big news was Kabongo Tshimanga was fit enough to be included in the squad and gained a place on the bench, otherwise he decided on just one change to the Huish Park line-up as Akwasi Asante took over from the injured Jack Clarke.
The Spreites won the toss and kicked towards the travelling fans. The Gallagher Stadium has a synthetic surface and the fast pace of the pitch showed in the very early stages when Covolan raced out to kick to safety.
Joe Quigley won the ball from goalkeeper Tom Hadler but just couldn’t find Liam Mandeville who would have had the simplest tap home, instead the home side broke quickly themselves.
Moments later Calvin Miller also spurned a great opening but fired narrowly wide of the left upright.
The Stones went even closer a few minutes later when Jack Barham provided a quality ball in from the right and Sam Corne’s header produced a superb save from Covolan, the ball was eventually scrambled to safety.
Covolan saved the day when Jack Barham burst into the area, he read the danger well and went to meet Barham wide on the right, narrowed the angle and saved superbly from the rushed effort.
Quigley picked up a great ball from Branden Horton but fired inches wide of the right upright, moments later his ball to Asante produced an instinctive save from Hadler from Asante’s flick.
On the half-hour mark Barham broke free and decided to test Covolan from the edge of the area, Covolan easily claimed his effort that lacked power.
Roarie Deacon challenged well and the ball fell to Christie Pattison who shot from 20 yards straight at the untroubled Covolan.
A tussle between Jeff King and Roarie Deacon saw King receive treatment and Deacon receive a yellow card for his challenge. Just one minute was added with neither side threatening as the game remained scoreless at the interval.
Play resumed with a much wetter surface after a half-time rain shower that was still lingering and heavy clouds overhead.
A superb dinked ball from Oldaker found King in the area but the late flag for offside ended the move.
A few minutes later the Stones had another big opening. Sam Corne offered a pin-point cross but Pattison’s header was recklessly wayward.
Play swung to the other end and the home side were penalised for a foul on Quigley just outside the area. King stepped up and almost fulfilled the inevitable expectation; his free-kick was powerful and on target but home keeper Hadler was alert enough to tip to safety.
King picked up his fifth yellow of the season for a clumsy challenge on the impressive Barham.
Moments later Paul Cook made his first change as Tshimanga replaced Asante.
A neat Horton ball from the left eluded several blue shirts until Mandeville’s toe poke flew over.
The deadlock was broken in the 82nd minute after Oldaker fed Tshimanga who showed his class by taking a couple of paces before firing confidently home with an unstoppable angled shot.
Quigley and Uchegbulam combined well to produce a corner kick that Banks connected with to blast over the bar.
The Stones levelled with just two minutes remaining. Regain Booty swung in a free-kick from the left that found substitute Alabi’s head and saw the ball home via the upright.
Alabi had made a real difference and went close again with a blast from distance.
Uchegbulam changed the game’s outcome in added time when his pace down the left and his ball in created the eventual opportunity for Oldaker to hit cleanly home and a seal win that moments before looked beyond them.
Chesterfield: Covolan, King, Williams, Grimes, Horton, Oldaker, Banks, Mandeville, Asante (Tshimanga 69), Miller (Uchegbulam 76), Quigley
Substitutes not used: Maguire, Akinola, Cooper,
Attendance: 2,627 including 385 Chesterfield supporters
Referee: Aaron Bannister