Report: Exeter City 0 Chesterfield 2
The Grecians slipped to a 2-0 defeat at St James at the hands of Chesterfield, as the visitors went to the top of the Sky Bet League 2 table.
The scoring was opened by Ollie Banks mere minutes after the break, as the midfielder – who had been announced as League 2 Player of the Month earlier in the day – headed in Callum McFadzean’s corner.
Banks turned provider for the Spireites’ second midway through the second half as he slotted in Marc Richards who stepped round a defender and slotted in.
Following two goals against Accrington, 20-year-old striker Tom Nichols made a second consecutive start for the Grecians, partnered this time up front by Sam Parkin with Alan Gow beginning on the bench.
Scot Bennett wore the captain's armband once again in the absence of the injured Danny Coles and with Pat Baldwin taking a seat on the bench. Jordan Moore-Taylor again started at centre-half with David Wheeler beginning the game on the right flank.
The first chance of note came for the visitors, as Tendayi Darikwa found space on the right flank and smashed goalwards from a narrow angle – Artur Krysiak readjusted well to punch and clear the danger. With the wind blowing harshly into the face of the City men in the first half, it was going to be a long 45 minutes.
But up the other end, Wheeler could only shank his shot after a ball broke to him outside the box – goalkeeper Tommy Lee had come and missed the ball as it held up in the strong wind, but the winger couldn’t make him pay.
Chesterfield were gifted a glorious chance to go ahead after a back-header by Liam Sercombe was played blindly and effectively laid in Richards. The City stopper pulled out a great stop, low to his left, to deny the striker from his one-on-one.
Midway through what was proving a very even first period, Wheeler had another couple of efforts – the first was hit cleanly and wide after being laid in on the inside-right channel by Parkin, and the second was headed over as Craig Woodman hung up a cross.
Exeter had a fine chance to counter when Matt Gill released Nichols down the left flank and, after breaking high line, charged downfield. His cross towards Wheeler was cut out by Darikwa and Sercombe snatched his effort as the ball fell loose outside the box.
The visitors wasted three decent chances before half-time to take the lead. Richards couldn’t quite get on the end of a Drew Talbot cross, Ritchie Humphreys bent a shot wide with the outside of his foot, and Moore-Taylor recovered brilliantly to block out a Darikwa effort as he controlled and shot from an Eoin Doyle cross.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Chesterfield 0
The Grecians thought they would be kicking with the wind in the second half, having weathered the storm – quite literally – in the first half. But the direction of the gale had changed during the 15 minute break and conditions were just as unfavourable when the game restarted.
And City were trailing within two minutes of kick-off – Callum McFadzean had tested the mettle of the Grecians rear-guard from the corner flag plenty of times in the first period and City had done well to keep him at bay, but this time Ollie Banks rose well and found the net despite the best efforts of Woodman on the goal-line.
The Grecians could have found parity mere seconds after kicking off again, as a ball meant for Parkin saw Nichols ghost in behind. However his first touch had too much purchase as he aimed to round Tommy Lee and the Spireites maintained their lead.
Gow replaced Parkin ten minutes after the break to create a different dimension to the attack. At the other end, Chesterfield might have doubled their lead as Darikwa picked out the head of Richards six yards from goal, but his nodded effort had direction but absolutely no power and Krysiak collected.
Paul Tisdale opted to change City’s shape midway through the second half as Baldwin replaced Moore-Taylor and Matt Grimes came on for Wheeler. Bennett went up front to partner Gow and Nichols.
But within a minute of the change, the Grecians defence was unpicked by an incisive move by the visitors as Banks slid in Richards, who calmly rounded Danny Butterfield and slotted past Krysiak.
Exeter were looking to strike back and a good chance came and went as Sercombe whipped a cross from deep to the far post, but Arron Davies could only side-foot his effort past the upright as he arrived at the back stick.
Chesterfield sub Jay O’Shea tested Krysiak with a low drive as the game ticked into the final minutes as he jinked inside and out on the left flank and popped a low shot towards the near post.
It was the last notable action of the match, with the exception of a confrontation between Chesterfield sub Armand Gnanduillet and Butterfield which saw the pair get booked.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Chesterfield 2
Exeter City: Krysiak; Butterfield, Bennett, Moore-Taylor (Baldwin 68), Woodman; Wheeler (Grimes 68), Gill, Sercombe, Davies; Parkin (Gow 56), Nichols.
Subs (not used): Pym, O’Flynn, Gosling, Keohane.
Chesterfield: Lee; Talbot, Evatt, Hird, Humphreys; Darikwa, Togwell, Banks, McFadzean (Gnanduillet (60); Richards (Brown 72), Doyle (O’Shea 84).
Subs (not used): Mason, Morsy, Devitt, McSheffrey.
Goals: Banks (47), Richards (69).
Attendance: 3,449 (138 away)
Referee: C. Berry