Chesterfield succumbed to a headed goal from a right-sided corner shortly after the break for the second Saturday on the trot.
On Saturday, league leaders Gillingham, notching up a club record 11th away win, saw former Spireites target Cody McDonald glance in Myles Weston’s delivery in the 50th minute.
Paul Cook’s side have a huge nine-point gap to make up, with just 13 games remaining, if their rapidly-diminishing play-off aspirations are to come to fruition.
Unlike the case at Rotherham a week earlier, you’d be hard pushed to blame Chesterfield’s commitment to the cause.
They put in plenty of huff and puff. It was just the case that Gillingham were a confident and very competent side and you could see exactly why they’re top the table and leak very few goals.
In McDonald they’ve got a striker the Spireites are lacking at the moment, an opportunist that will take his one and only chance. Weston has pace and trickery to open up defences and all of their 11 were happy to get involved in the physical side of things when necessary. And they are expert time-wasters, though it was something of a surprise when the fourth official signalled seven additional minutes at the end when only keeper Stuart Nelson had been carded for such offences.
Cook made three changes from the side that were well beaten at New York Stadium. Skipper Sam Hird was suspended and Jack Lester and Danny Whitaker were benched. In came Conor Townsend, Craig Clay and, for his first ever senior start, right-back Richard Brindley, who never, ever looked out of place.
The manager had Marc Richards as his attacking spearhead with Jay O’Shea and Drew Talbot supporting him. Unfortunately Richards saw little of the ball in a first half that lacked quality from both of the combatants.
O’Shea saw plenty of it but was unable to affect play as much as he was doing in his first few games for the club. Talbot worked tirelessly as he always does, but Gills’ miserly defence were excellent at simply sweeping up the bits.
Tommy Lee had to make a top-notch dive-right save to deny Chris Whelpdale, who soon had to move to defence when Matt Fish limped off. McDonald had an effort blocked while Richards, over, and Talbot, wide, had the hosts’ only two worthy efforts ahead of the break.
Transfer-listed Neal Trotman blocked a cross to concede a corner soon after the re-start and McDonald struck for the Martin Allen’s visitors.
Manchester City loanee Alex Henshall came on to the left wing in a pre-planned move and Lester also came on, though the original plan was for him to have entered play a little later.
Henshall, aged 19, immediately got involved and is now the main focus for optimism for the next few weeks of the Spireites’ campaign. Lively, quick and a decent crosser
who’s also not afraid to shoot is the early assessment of the youngster. If he doesn’t start tomorrow night against Aldershot Town it will raise more than a few eyebrows.
Lester had a shot blocked by Leon Legge as the Spireites moved up a gear or two. Whelpdale hacked a Trotman header off the line from a Henshall delivery and Sam Togwell had to do similar in an increasingly rare Gills attack, Legge the unlucky player.
Lester was again denied, by the keeper this time,
and the Spireites had a couple of penalty shouts turned down before Barnsley man Jordan Clark came on for Trotman with the hosts leaving just three men back.
Spireites talisman Lester had the ball in the net in the 89th minute, Richards had nodded the ball down, but an offside flag ruled out the effort. Many in the home camp felt Lester had not strayed.
The ‘seven extra minutes’ board clearly lifted the hosts but only a Townsend free-kick in that time forced Nelson to save and Gillingham emerged as victors in what was a hard fought but almost instantly forgettable game of football.
Andy Scott brings Aldershot to the Proact tomorrow fresh from a 2-0 win over Fleetwood Town that saw them exit the drop zone.
Former Spireite Terrell Forbes, who left the club somewhat under a cloud, made his Shots debut in that game and looks set to start against his ex-employers.
French striker Armand Gnanduillet, who has an abductor problem, is unlikely to be risked by Cook.