The first-ever meeting between the two clubs certainly proved eventful as the Spireites drew 2-2 at Dorking Wanderers.
An early Akwasi Asante breakthrough for the Spireites was followed by a red card for Lucas Covolan for an off-the-ball incident. Instead of crumbling, Chesterfield doubled their lead thanks to a well-worked Armando Dobra strike and took that scoreline into the interval.
Dorking manager Marc White changed his team’s shape, with a double substitution, at the start of the second period and the home side’s performance showed a marked improvement. Theŷ pulled a goal back mid-way through the half and levelled with just under 15 minutes to play.
A frenetic finale followed with Chesterfield claiming a well deserved point but they’ll return from Surrey frustrated at their failure to turn their early dominance into three points and they’ll also feel they didn’t get the “rub of the green” when it came to crucial decisions.
Just seven years ago, when Chesterfield finished sixth in EFL League One, Dorking finished runners-up in the Sussex County League and secured promotion to the Ryman Division One South. Since then their rise has been truly meteoric, culminating in promotion last season from the National League South via the play-offs to clinch their 12th promotion since their formation – a British record.
This opening fixture could hardly have been a tougher test for the Spireites – a sell-out crowd in a packed, compact Meadowbank Stadium with an artificial pitch against a team full of confidence and determined to maintain their seemingly endless momentum.
Paul Cook’s much-changed side contained just five players that started the final fixture of last season.
The new players have settled in well and all started the game looking lively and kicking towards their large travelling support.
The Spireites started the strongest with Dobra proving an early threat but the home side broke well with Niall McManus and Josh Taylor combining well to set up Ryan Seager who, thankfully, was deemed offside.
Goalmouth action at both ends followed as Alfie Rutherford fouled Covolan while challenging in the six yard box. At the other end Asante looked for a decision as he was felled on the edge of the area.
Moments later, Liam Mandeville floated over a gem of a ball from the right but Asante couldn’t find enough power in his header to trouble Slovakian keeper Slavomir Huk.
More controlled play ended with a weak Joe Quigley effort that failed to threaten. The pressure soon told as the hard-to-handle Dobra slid the perfect ball to Asante on the left who slotted home coolly with a neat angled shot in the 18th minute.
Moments later, Quigley fired over from close range but a late offside flag ensured it would have counted for nothing.
Dorking went close as last season’s top goalscorer Rutherford controlled well and provided a great opening for Ryan Seager who could only scuff his shot harmlessly.
The game turned on its head when Covolan was given a straight red for an off-the-ball incident, just outside the area, involving Dorking’s Ryan Seager. Ollie Banks took his place in goal.
The game became a feisty affair as the home side’s McManus received a yellow card for a clear dive in the area.
Incredibly, against all odds, the Spireites broke well and doubled their lead as Mandeville provided a peach of a pass for livewire Dobra to hit the perfect angled ball home.
In the five added minutes, Banks was forced intoaction times three times before the whistle blew to allow a much-needed team-talk.
The second half began with a double substitution for Dorking but the same ten resumed for the Spireites and looked to continue to push forward. A perfectly weighted ball from Dobra found Quigley in a central position but his shot lacked power.
Ollie Banks drew applause from the Chesterfield supporters when he made his first clean claim since taking on his new role.
Paul Cook chose to bolster the side’s defensive strength and brought Laurence Maguire into the game at the expense of Asante. Wanderers completed their changes as Jack Jebb replaced Seager.
Dorking continued to threaten; thankfully James McShane fired over from a superb Nicky Wheeler cross from the left.
The task suddenly got much harder when the home side pulled a goal back. Banks failed to claim a straightforward cross from Bobby Joe and James McShane was on hand to guide it home. The Spireites appealed for offside but referee Cartmel showed little interest.
The equaliser came in the 78th minute when Luke Moore ballooned a McManus ball from the right into the top corner. The goal came immediately after a contentious free-kick was awarded in a 50/50 clash.
Banks produced a stunning finger-tip save from a Wheeler free-kick, the corner came to nothing.
Cook’s last changes saw Tom Whelan replace Dobra and Michael Gyasi replace former Dorking player Darren Oldaker.
The end of the five added minutes produced yet more controversy as Branden Horton received his second yellow for time-wasting before the final whistle ended an all-action fixture with both teams gaining a first fixture point but Chesterfield ended the game with just nine players on the pitch.
Chesterfield: Covolan, King, Williams, Grimes, Horton, Oldaker (Gyasi 83), Banks, Dobra (Whelan 69), Mandeville, Asante (Maguire 57), Quigley
Substitutes not used: Clarke, Sheckleford