Fleetwood 1-3 Chesterfield
Chesterfield, winners of the competition in 2012, took another large step towards a Wembley final when they won the Johnstone Paints Trophy Northern Final first leg by 3-1 in front of 3508 at Highbury. Town had two first half goals disallowed in an eventful match but strikes by Ian Evatt, Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan for the visitors have given Graham Alexander’s side a tough challenge in the second leg. David Ball scored for Town.
League Two’s top scoring teams came together and it was Town who made the brighter start. Alan Goodall’s third minute header momentarily delighted the fans in the Memorial Stand behind the goal but was denied by an offside flag. Charlie Taylor was booked for diving in the area and Ball had a shot blocked.
After 11 minutes, Chesterfield keeper Tommy Lee almost got himself into trouble near the corner flag, under pressure from Jon Parkin, but the league leaders cleared the danger and almost capitalised on a defensive lapse which set Eoin Doyle free. Town came back to force successive corners. Junior Brown, in for Steven Schumacher, forced Lee to punch clear from under his crossbar on each occasion. On the quarter hour the best chance so far fell to Parkin who failed to get his header on target from a good position. Antoni Sarcevic followed up with a shot from the edge of the area which went narrowly wide in the 18th minute.
Unchanged Chesterfield resisted before displaying the quality that has taken them to the top of the league, taking control of the game in a four minute spell in which Town conceded twice. An inch-perfect free kick by Gary Roberts landed in the path of former Blackpool skipper Evatt who poked the ball past Scott Davies from close range. A second strike followed just four minutes later. Davies failed to clear a cross from the right and Morsy slammed home the loose ball. The visitors threatened to go further ahead, showing the quality that has taken them to the top of League Two, and a third nearly followed in the 35th minute. Davies came out to the edge of the area but the ball held up in the wind and Doyle was able to stab the ball towards goal, missing the near post by inches.
Town looked to have got back into the game in the 39th minute when Parkin turned in a shot from Mark Roberts. There was a delay as referee Coote went to consult his assistant who didn’t raise his flag immediately. Mr. Coote informed the official that Parkin had got a touch on the line and the goal was disallowed. Parkin protested vigorously and was booked. It was third time lucky for Town on the stroke of half time as Conor McLaughlin fed Parkin. A glancing header found Ball whose own header beat Lee for the striker’s third goal in the competition.
Town pressed forward after the break. Taylor got a shot on target but Lee got his body behind it. The first substitution saw Drew Talbot replace Dan Gardener for Chesterfield. Town had appeared to nullify Chesterfield’s attacking threat until the 64th minute when Ryan struck a superb shot from distance to beat Davies on his right. As their large contingent of fans sang about a trip to Wembley, Mikael Mandron replaced Ball after 67 minutes. As Town looked to get back into the tie, Graham Alexander increased his attacking options. Gareth Evans replaced Murdoch with sixteen minutes left. Doyle was replaced by Marc Richards for the visitors.
Town pressure almost paid off with ten minutes left. Brown put in a cross from the right which looped out to Parkin. The ball seemed to hang for ever before the striker’s shot was blocked by Evatt.
Chesterfield’s final substitution saw Sam Hird replacing Ryan with six minutes left. Lee was booked for time-wasting in added time and the referee was kept busy as several contentious moments occurred.
Town pushed forward at the death. Goodall and Evans came close to a second Town goal in the dying moments but it was not to be and Town have it all to do.
TEAM: Davies, McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts, Taylor, Goodall, Murdoch (Evans 74), Brown, Sarcevic, Parkin, Ball (Mandron 67)
Booked: Taylor Parkin