Full-time: Chesterfield 2 Bristol Rovers 0
Bristol Rovers’ bid to climb the League Two table was temporarily halted this afternoon following a 2-0 defeat at Chesterfield.
John Ward had watched his side, who had secured impressive back-to-back victories against promotion-chasing sides in their last two games, only denied an early 8th minute lead after a combination of Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee and the post somehow kept Eliot Richards’ effort from distance out.
It was the highlight of an otherwise relatively chanceless afternoon for Rovers during which Chesterfield recovered from their early lethargy to make a mockery of their poor run of recent form in which they had managed to score just once in their last five games.
That tally was added to seven minutes after the restart when winger Jay O’Shea robbed John-Joe O’Toole before flashing a vicious effort past Steve Mildenhall from just inside the penalty area to offer Chesterfield a deserved lead for their improving efforts.
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Bustling French striker Amand Gnanduillett doubled the advantage in the 73rd minute after being allowed time and space to power in off the left-hand side and advance towards the six-yard box before slipping a neat finish past Mildenhall.
Cook’s side had shown potential to look dangerous when offered chances to load the ball into the penalty area during a first-half in which Mildenhall was forced to make saves to deny midfield pair Sam Togwell and Sam Hird.
O’Toole, who had been given a free-role at the top of a three-man midfield, and Richards both guided efforts over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area in the only other chances of note.
Joe Anyinsah’s lasted only 45 minutes before he was replaced by Fabian Broghammer as Ward returned to the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation that had served his side so well on the road since his arrival.
A desire to chase the game forced the manager into throwing on Tom Hitchcock on as an additional forward soon after Rovers had conceded off the boot of O’Shea before Oumare Tounkara replaced Ryan Brunt for the final 20 minutes.
Tounkara’s arrival, however, was quickly followed by Chesterfield’s second goal after which only Richards had a credible attempt to halve the deficit when his 68th minute shot was saved by Lee at the foot of his post.
Rovers should probably have been three behind at this point, though, as veteran marksman Jack Lester somehow managed to guide a 61st minute header wide when he should have done much better from a matter of yards out.
Rovers (4-3-3): Mildenhall; Smith, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown; Norburn, O’Toole, Woodards (Hitchcock, 53); Richards, Brunt (Tounkara, 71) Anyinsah (Broghammer, 46). Subs: Paterson, Harrison, Gough, McDonald.
Chesterfield (4-4-2): Lee; Brindley, Trotman, Cooper, Smith; O’Shea, Togwell, Hird, Townsend (Whitaker, 85); Lester (Darikwa, 71) Gnanduillet (Richards, 80). Subs: Barrington, Clark, Randall, Henshall.