Report: Chesterfield 1 Exeter City 1
Exeter City and Chesterfield shared the points with a 1-1 draw at the Proact Stadium, in a game that could easily have gone either way by the full-time whistle.
Matt Grimes’ first professional goal – a deflected free-kick – got City going in the second half, and the Grecians created a host of chances to extend that lead before Sam Morsy was sent off for the hosts for a poor tackle on Grimes.
But Eoin Doyle won a penalty late in the game and scored it himself, with the game ultimately ending a goal apiece.
Striker John O’Flynn started in attack for the Grecians for the Good Friday trip to meet Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium, making his first start for over a month since beginning away at York. Club captain Danny Coles was the other change to the squad, with duo Pat Baldwin and Tom Nichols both primed on the bench.
City began the game shooting towards a packed home crowd, who were fully expecting their promotion charge to continue. However Exeter were stubborn in defence early doors and the forward energy of O’Flynn was giving the Spireites’ defence things to think about.
The first chance of note came as Chesterfield centre-half Liam Cooper headed a corner goalwards, only for Matt Oakley to be well-placed on the line to keep out the effort. Up the other end, a clever flick from a City corner was almost turned in only for the offside flag to go up.
Christy Pym, who had retained his place between the sticks, was called upon to make a great save from Eoin Doyle as Gary Roberts’ cross from the left flank with the outside of his boot was met by the Irishman. The flag at that point had already been raised.
Eliot Richards was proving a useful link-up player between the midfield and lone striker O’Flynn, and it was his intelligent use of the ball that earned City the opener.
The Bristol Rovers loanee drew a foul which the referee tried to play advantage for, only for the move to break down and a free-kick to be signalled. Grimes struck left-footed from 25 yards and meaty deflection left goalkeeper Tommy Lee stranded as the net rippled.
Rather than rousing the home side, the goal left them rattled and the away side continued to look threatening, on the counter in particular. Richards worked space to shoot left-footed but his effort lacked sufficient power to worry Lee, before O’Flynn was just stood up and challenged in good time by captain Ian Evatt.
Marc Richards’ stung the palms of Pym before the interval after Sam Morsy drew a foul from Matt Oakley, and then had another effort deflected just wide after being teed up by Nathan Smith.
Half-time: Chesterfield 0 Exeter City 1
The Spireites made a double sub at the break, with Armand Gnanduillet and Ritchie Humphreys thrown into the action to provide a different kind of threat.
And early in the half Tendayi Darikwa, up from right-back, saw a cross just glanced wide by Richards, before cutting in from the flank and having a left-footed effort of his own, which cleared the goal.
A defensive mix-up by the home side gifted O’Flynn a glorious chance to extend the lead – the striker got on the blindside of Cooper, and when the defender tried to head back to his goalkeeper, it was intercepted by the Exeter man. He controlled on his chest and hammered goalwards, only for Lee’s legs to turn around the post.
Exeter had a near-identical chance to the one which resulted in their opener – Richards again burst through after turning well before being hacked down – this time resulting in a yellow for Spireites captain – giving the Grecians another chance from the dead ball, 25 yards out.
This time it was Sercombe that shot, but his deflected effort flew just wide of the target.
Nichols came on midway through the second period, replacing O’Flynn after he took a knock, and immediately began linking up with Richards smartly. A flick from the Welshman released sub Nichols almost immediately and drew a good save from Lee.
The pair broke again at pace again on the counter-attack and Nichols just delayed the pass too long, meaning the flag was up by the time Richards received bearing down on goal.
Morsy, who had gotten involved in a number of tussles in the first half, was shown a straight red when he lunged into a tackle on Matt Grimes, meaning City had the man advantage in the closing stages.
Exeter kept pressing to try and make that numerical advantage count, and Nichols headed against the post from a corner as another chance came and went for the Grecians.
And City’s missed chances allowed Chesterfield back into the game as Doyle drew a foul in the box from Danny Butterfield. It was the Irishman that stepped up himself to take, and sent goalkeeper Pym the wrong way.
It set up a grandstand finish, with both teams having chances to win it. Scot Bennett, who converted to a makeshift striker to provide a different threat, hammered left-footed half-volley that Lee kept out with a smart diving save.
Gary Roberts volleyed into the side netting from Darikwa’s cross and Oakley, cutting in off the right, hit left-footed into the arms of Lee.
Ultimately neither team could provide that final breakthrough and it ended honours-even in Derbyshire.
Full-time: Chesterfield 1 Exeter City 1
Chesterfield: Lee; Darikwa, Evatt, Cooper, Smith (Humphreys 46); Gardner (Gnanduillet 46), Morsy, Hird, Roberts; Richards (Kearns 70), Doyle.
Subs: Dunbavin, Togwell, O’Shea, Beesley.
Goal: Doyle (77 pen).
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield, Coles, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; Sercombe, Oakley, Bennett, Grimes, Richards; O’Flynn (Nichols 67).
Subs: Krysiak, Baldwin, Davies, Keohane, Wheeler, Gill.
Goal: Grimes (18).
Referee: R. Lewis