In-Spire-d Second Half Sees Hatters Home!
The Hatters bounced back from their added-time defeat at Harrogate two days previously – and also kept a second home clean sheet running – with goals after the break from Elliot Osborne and substitute Nyal Bell giving them their first victory over the ‘Spireites’ of Chesterfield for more than 15 years, as well as lifting them three places into the play-off positions.
After a run of three matches in which the Hatters had remained unchanged at the outset, two changes were made for their first meeting with the Derbyshire club in over eight years. Sam Walker and Jake Kirby were the players recalled to start on a baking Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, in place of Ben Jackson and Chesterfield-born ex-Spireite Connor Dimaio.
The visitors, who, for their part, fielded two players with England international connections past and present, in captain Anthony Gerrard and Laurence Maguire – respectively, cousin of Steven and brother of Harry – enjoyed the game’s first chance, with just over a minute played, courtesy of a dead-ball situation, but Ben Hinchliffe cleanly held on to Joe Rowley’s free-kick from the left.
A tight contest ensued – and one that took some 19 minutes before witnessing a first opportunity created in open play, by way of a low drive from the edge of the box by Maguire that Hinchliffe tipped around the right post at full stretch. And around the half-hour mark, the Hatters’ Number One comfortably gathered a shot from similar distance by one-time County target Mike Fondop.
For a team still seeking a first victory of 2019/20, Chesterfield continued to look rather dangerous on the break. And Maguire again went close with eight minutes of the half remaining, when he connected with Jermaine McGlashan’s cross from the right – only to head shy of the far upright.
Gerrard’s free-kick was deflected behind by the County wall, before Osborne’s added-time shot from inside the box bounced into the arms of visiting goalkeeper Shawn Jalal. But for that latter attempt, the Spireites would have gone in at the break having literally called all the shots, as well as each of the contest’s six first-half corners.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Chesterfield 0.
The Hatters began the second half precisely as they had done the first – with an Osborne effort on target. And this one, just 30 seconds after they had kicked off, gave them the lead!
Sam Minihan found Kirby in space on the left, and Kirby’s low cross was flicked home at the Cheadle End by Osborne with the aid of a deflection for the Number 10’s third goal of the season.
Osborne then fired wide of the right post from the edge of the area, before an Adam Thomas cross from the right just evaded the on-rushing Frank Mulhern, and Kirby curled a shot beyond the left upright, as County continued to press.
The visitors twice came close to restoring parity before the hour was up – as McGlashan’s angled shot from the right was parried beyond the far post by Hinchliffe, and Will Evans’ header from the resulting corner narrowly cleared the crossbar.
But County remained in the ascendancy – with the newly-arrived Bell firing a shot from the right past the near upright, Osborne blasting over following another Thomas cross on the right, and Kirby, for a second time, curling just shy of the left post.
And with 10 minutes left on the clock, County’s first two substitutes combined to decisive effect to double the advantage, as Dimaio teed up Bell – who steadied himself around the Chesterfield ‘D’, before firing low past Jalal for his second goal in as many games and the Hatters’ second successive 2-0 Edgeley Park triumph.
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Osborne, 46; Bell, 79), Chesterfield 0.
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Keane, Palmer, Cowan; Turnbull (Capt.), Walker (Dimaio, 70); Thomas, Osborne (Arthur, 80), Kirby; Mulhern (Bell, 54).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Jackson.
Man of the Match: Turnbull.
Attendance: 5,578 (957 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.