Chesterfield have it all to do if they are to make the League One play-off final after suffering a first leg defeat to Preston North End.
Jermaine Beckford’s sixth minute strike was the difference between the side and ensured Preston take the advantage back to Deepdale for Sunday’s second leg.
The Spireites’ effort was certainly a valiant one. They dominated possession from the midpoint of the first half onwards but could not unlock a brilliantly resolute Preston defence.
Simon Grayson’s side had plenty of men behind the ball and gave Chesterfield very little room in which to operate.
The Spireites struggled to find gaps in the opposition rear guard and now must produce a tremendous effort on Sunday afternoon.
Preston had started the brighter with Joe Garner and former Spireites loanee Daniel Johnson both having shots on goal.
Beckford struck just six minutes in to put Preston a goal up against the Spireites.
Garner overpowered Sam Hird and allowed a pass roll through which Beckford collected in space and chipped over the onrushing Tommy Lee.
Garner had a great chance to double the lead on ten minutes when played in on the angle by Beckford but his attempt to curl the ball was easily held by Lee.
It took 20 minutes for the Spireites to register their first real opportunity. Tendayi Darikwa surged to the byline and cut back for Gary Roberts who saw his shot blocked while Sam Morsy’s strike for the follow-up was also stopped.
But as the half wore on, Chesterfield began to threaten and had much the better of the attacking play.
Preston defended superbly, getting plenty of men behind the ball and throwing bodies in front of shots.
Dan Gardner and Jay O’Shea both had good efforts blocked.
The game became a little fiery midway through the half, sparked by a confrontation between Roberts and Paul Gallagher. Hefty tackles would fly in from both sides as the half progressed.
The Proact crowd roared Chesterfield on as they continued to push but the final ball would consistently prove their undoing as Preston denied them space.
Chesterfield started the second half as they had finished the first, pushing their visitors hard.
But they continued to struggle to find the pass to unlock the resolute Preston defence.
Roberts fired wide from 12 yards out just after the hour in one of their better chances.
Chances for Preston were few and far between but Beckford could have doubled the lead on 68 minutes only to be denied by Lee.
There was little more the Spireites could do other than put the ball in the back of the net after a performance which not deserved to receive a defeat.
Chesterfield: Lee, Jones, Evatt, Hird, Darikwa, Morsy, Ryan, Roberts, O’Shea (Gnanduillet 88), Gardner (Banks 77), Clucas.
Subs: Talbot, Raglan, Ariyibi, Humphreys, Harrison
Preston: Johnstone, Laird (Woods 79), Clarke, Wright, Humphrey, Beckford (Robinson 87), Gallagher (Kilkenny 79), Garner, Welsh, Huntington, Johnson.
Subs: Wiseman, Davies, Stuckmann, Hugill.