What a game, what an atmosphere and what a battling performance from the Spireites who edged the first half and grew into the second to fully deserve the point they took home following a 1-1 draw at Notts County.
Alex Whittle finished off a a slick three-man move to put Chesterfield ahead and then gave away a penalty in first-half added time.
There were chances-a-plenty but a mixture of great goalkeeping and wayward finishing ensured neither side got the three points they desperately wanted.
The Spireites started the game at Meadow Lane in second place in the National League table and Notts County in sixth, just six points behind. However Paul Cook knows that recent dropped points have made the task of finishing the season in the top three a much harder challenge. Of course a positive result was just as important to Notts.
The fixture against the Magpies had become even more crucial and a much improved performance was essential if no further slippage was to be incurred. Cook made three changes to the side that began at Altrincham: Curtis Weston replaced the suspended Jim Kellermann, Tom Whelan took over from Joe Rowley and Calvin Miller edged out Joe Quigley who both had to settle for a berth on the bench.
Notts started unchanged from the team that beat fellow promotion hopefuls, Boreham Wood, in midweek.
The pitch looked immaculate, the weather matched it and the huge following from Chesterfield, that stretched the full length of the pitch, was in full voice as the teams emerged.
Notts kicked off and built slowly from the back before Jayden Richardson produced the first shot that Loach claimed well on the ground.
Akwasi Asante received some less than fair attention as he chased and harried in the main striker role. At the other end Kyle Wootton posed a lively threat.
Notts almost took the lead after a neat ball from Matt Palmer fed Dion Kelly-Evans who jinked into the area and tried his luck with an angled effort that took a deflection and forced an alert save from Loach. From the corner Liam Mandeville saved the day as he conceded another flag kick to clear the goal bound effort.
The Spireites broke quickly and created a super incisive move down the left as Asante provided a great ball in for Whelan to lay off for Whittle to slot neatly home and break the deadlock.
Notts broke well through Ruben Rodrigues and looked for a penalty when he went down in the area; the referee saw nothing untoward.
Half-way through the half Miller was brought down just outside the area. Jeff King’s free-kick was on target and forced Slocombe to palm away.
It had become alively end-to-end game as both Jayden Richardson and Harry Arter tried speculative efforts.
it was good to see a referee that let the game flow with both sides gaining from his positive approach.
The Spireites pressed well and forced errors in the home defence.
The first yellow card came when Whittle looked to break clear but was pulled back.
Two quick Chesterfield corners kept up the pressure but all the subsequent possession couldn’t be capitalised on.
Jayden Richardson continued to be a real handful and ran forty yards, at speed, to force a corner.
The Spireites gave away a penalty as the two added minutes drew to a close. Richardson was again the danger-man, sadly Alex Whittle’s challenge caught him sufficiently to warrant the decision. Kyle Wootton stepped up, sent Loach the wrong way, and slotted home to his left to sent the sides in level at the interval. Notts will feel they deserved it on chances created but the Spireites had played the more constructive football and would have been hugely disappointed not to have held on to the advantage.
County started the second period like an express train, clearly fired up by the equaliser. A knock for Jamie Grimes provided a much needed breather but also brought about his substitution as Gavin Gunning took his place.
A swift break saw Khan set up Miller on the left and his deflected shot produced a stunning save from Sam Slocombe.
Five minutes the same combination produced the same outcome as Slocombe saved well again from Miller’s angled drive.
A superb three man move involving first Matt Palmer and Kelly-Evans ended with Richardson’s low shot blocked.
Moments later Frank Vincent saw an opening but his effort was deflected wide.
Cook chose to shake things up and brought on Quigley for Mandeville and immediately there was a new threat. A valid call for a penalty as Whelan was pushed and moments later a low ball from Khan hit Asante who just couldn’t manage to control.
Wootton missed a golden chance with 12 minutes to go, Alex Lacey provided the perfect ball in but he headed over when it looked harder to miss.
Jeff King, who earlier been booked, was penalised with two minutes remaining and the home fans screamed for a red. The referee decided a “talking to” was sufficient.
Four minutes wee added but neither side could fashion a clear-cut chance to grab a late winner and had to settle for a point that was less than both sides needed but probably deserved
Chesterfield: Loach, Maguire, Weston, Asante, Mandeville, King, Grimes (Gunning 51), Quigley, Khan, Whittle, Whelan
Unused substitutes: McCourt & Rowley
Attendance: 10,334 including 2,719 Chesterfield supporters
Referee: Lewis Smith