It was an unhappy return to Southport for Paul Cook as his Chesterfield side’s unbeaten pre-season run came to an end.
In a game which saw three penalties, Marc Richards put the Spireites into an 18th minute lead from 12 yards before Danny Hattersley likewise converted from the spot seven minutes later. Chris Almond scored the winning goal midway through the second half ahead of Aaron Chapman saving a late penalty.
Cook, who managed Southport in 2006, admitted his team received a ‘reality check’ in their defeat to the Conference side. He said: “We wanted the players to be professional. The problem we had with the lads today was self-motivation. I feel like we’ve got a good work ethic and we’re going in the right direction.”
But he added: “Today was a reality check for them.”
Nathan Smith returned to first team duties as a second half substitute following a spell on the sidelines through injury while Nottingham Forest midfielder David Morgan also came off the bench late on for Chesterfield.
On a slightly cooler day than recent weeks, both sides took their time to settle.
Liam Cooper came closest to opening the scoring when he stepped forward from the back and unleashed a low drive from distance which hit the side netting.
A clever dummy from Jay O’Shea presented Sam Morsy with a good opportunity from just inside the penalty area, but the midfielder curled his effort wide of keeper Danny Hurst’s left hand post.
Ritchie Humphreys’ precise pass to Tendayi Darikwa led to the Spireites taking the lead. The winger was bundled to the floor by defender Luke George, presenting Richards with a spot kick which he duly converted. But Southport were thrown a lifeline seven minutes later when Hattersley was tripped in the box by Tommy Lee. The front man sent Lee the wrong way.
Hurst kept his side in it with a point blank save from Morsy’s thunderous effort, which clearly caused the home keeper some discomfort, before Matty Flynn was next to put himself on the line when he blocked a goalbound strike from O’Shea 10 yards from goal. Morsy had another sight of goal shortly after the interval but he blazed wide of the target after Richards saw his shot parried out by Hurst.
A flowing move from right to left saw Southport take the lead. Yamen Osawe beat two defenders and laid the ball square for Almond to tap home from six yards.
Substitute Armand Gnanduillet responded with a run and shot that hit the outside netting from an angle before Almond forced a smart save from Lee at his near post.
Chapman pulled off a late penalty save from Chalmers after the referee had adjudged Smith to have fouled Matty Harris in the box, when it looked like the defender won the ball cleanly.
Chesterfield: Lee (Chapman 75); Talbot, Hird (Brown 70), Cooper, Humphreys (Smith 62); Morsy (Togwell 50), Ryan (Bencherif 68), Darikwa (Doyle 50), O’Shea (Morgan 88), Roberts (Devitt 70); Richards (Gnanduillet 50). All subs used.
Southport: Hurst; Challoner (Joyce 75), Fitzpatrick (Willis 60), Chalmers, Flynn (Akrigg 60), George, Rutherford (Osawe 60), Milligan, Hattersley, Brown, Almond. Subs not used: Smith, Kearney, Sumner, Fazel, Livesey, Campbell, Ojapah.