Southend 0 Chesterfield 1: Novak goal gives Spireites six-point safety net
Lee Novak's 88th minute goal, his 14th of the season and ninth in 11 games, plus the team's first clean sheet since Hallowe'en, earned Spireites a valuable away win.
Having upset the odds to win at Gillingham a week ago, Danny Wilson’s men triumphed in another long distance South-East Super Saturday to make it five without defeat and build a cushion of six points from the drop zone.
The win was Chesterfield’s eighth away triumph, only teams in the top six can match or better that figure.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, the visitors had more possession and more shots at goal, but as time ticked on, play-off chasing Southend United gradually began to turn up the pressure and in doing so, left opportunities for Spireites to counter-attack.
It was such a move that notched the win; skipper Gary Liddle, back after suspension and one of two changes, Dion Donohue also came in with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Drew Talbot making way, broke down a Shrimpers attack. With the outside of his right boot, he calmly picked out fresh-legged sub Jay O’Shea who motored down the left.
The Irishman passed just behind Ollie Banks, who put in a fantastic shift, but big defender Cian Bolger failed to get a decent touch to the ball allowing Banks to stab it to Novak just outside the box. The in-form striker took a couple of touches before shooting across keeper Dan Bentley to win it.
In United’s desperate attempts to draw level, Bentley went up for a corner and a free-kick and from the latter, O’Shea put the partially cleared ball just wide of the open net from 75 yards.
The hosts started brightly; raider David Worrall headed a Will Atkinson cross onto the upright and he saw Tommy Lee gather up his close-range shot from the rebound, but from then on Chesterfield began to defend well and build up attacks of their own.
Banks brought out the best of Bentley with a box-edge curler and the highly-rated keeper did well to block a Novak header as Spireites grew in confidence.
Always high-tempo, the game ebbed and flowed but it always looked likely that a goal would be scored and Novak was the man to do just that.
Asked if he’d have taken a 0-0 on 85 minutes when Southend were going for the win, Wilson said: “No I wouldn’t as I felt we were always dangerous on the counter-attack and the way they were throwing things forward, there was always going to be that chance.
“When you’ve Ariyibi, O’Shea and particularly Novak on the pitch, they can always turn defensive ploys into attacking ploys and that’s what happened. Overall, I thought we were very positive in our approach today and the win was thoroughly deserved.”
Doncaster Rovers (at Scunthorpe United) and Shrewsbury Town, who are at home to Coventry City, two teams below Chesterfield, play their games in hand tomorrow night whilst Spireites can turn their attention to the weekend and a home fixture against old rivals Walsall.
Southend United: Bentley 7, White 7, Barrett 7, Bolger 6, Coker 6, Worrall 7 (Hunt 29, 6), Deegan 7, Atkinson 6 (McQueen 66, 7), Wordsworth 7, Payne 8, Barnett 6 (Mooney 79). Subs (not used): Smith, Thompson, Timlin, Loza.
Chesterfield: Lee 6, O’Neil 7, Anderson 7, Hird 7, Donohue 6, Liddle 7, Banks 8, Dimaio 7, John 6 (O’Shea 83), Ariyibi 6, Novak 7. Subs (not used): Chapman, Gardner, Talbot, Ebanks-Blake, Simons, Slew.
Goal: Novak 88
Ref: Darren Drysdale (Lincs)
Booked: Banks (Chesterfield), Coker (Southend)
Attendance: 7518 (375 from Chesterfield)