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SPIREITES DEFEAT THE SHAYMEN TO REACH PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINAL


Chesterfield produced their best performance in a number of months to beat FC Halifax Town 2-1 away from home on Tuesday evening to advance to the National League play-off semi-final.

Goals midway through each half from Danny Rowe and Jeff King put the Spireites 2-0 up but an instant reply from Halifax substitute Matt Stenson set up a nervy and tense final quarter of the game. The Spireites held on though and will now play Solihull Moors away from home in a one-legged play-off semi-final on Sunday afternoon.

The Spireites were excellent in the opening half an hour of the game and really took the game by the scruff of the neck. Liam Mandeville probably should have at least hit the target after only three minutes played when he dragged his effort wide from outside the penalty area. In the 11th minute, a rocket of an effort from Saidou Khan from 20 yards out looked to be on target but Danny Rowe couldn't get out of the way and inadvertently blocked the ball before the Shaymen goalkeeper could be seriously tested.

Paul Cook's side went agonisingly close to taking the lead after 18 minutes played when Calvin Miller's 18 yard effort following an excellent run flashed just inches wide of the post following a deflection. The pressure continued and the Spireites were soon rewarded for their efforts. Jeff King whipped in an excellent corner and the set piece was met by a glancing header from an unmarked Danny Rowe. Rowe's effort was steered past the goalkeeper from 12 yards out and found the back of the net to make it 1-0 and send the Spireites supporters behind the goal into raptures.

On the half hour mark, a few feisty challenges were soon being made. In particular, a late challenge from Liam Mandeville seriously irked the Halifax dugout and they were incensed that his foul only warranted a booking from the referee. With a few late challenges taking place and Calvin Miller needing some physio treatment on the pitch, momentum for the Spireites was lost and Paul Cook's side dropped a gear following all the stoppages.

This allowed Halifax to finally come into the game a little more but no clear-cut chances of any kind materialised to test Scott Loach in the Spireites goal.








It was a tense first 15 minutes of the second half with both sides well aware of the huge significance of whoever scored the next goal. Halifax could have grabbed an equaliser though as early as two minutes after the restart when Matty Warburton was able to shoot from 18 yards out but he snatched at his effort and the ball was struck well wide when he should have at least hit the target.

The second half began to open up properly from the hour mark onwards with the stakes increasing as each minute elapsed. The Spireites had a big chance to double their lead in the 62nd minute when Liam Mandeville was put through with a clear sight at goal but his close range effort was too close to the Halifax goalkeeper and he was able to save fairly comfortably in what was a bit of a let-off for the Shaymen.

The away supporters were soon celebrating wildly again though when a moment of magic from Jeff King gave the Spireites a 2-0 lead in the 66th minute. Following a run down the right wing on a breakaway, King approached the edge of the penalty area. With the goalkeeper and seemingly everyone else expecting a cross, King instead chose to rifle in an ambitious effort on goal and the gamble paid off hugely. His 20 yard effort caught the keeper completely unawares and he was left to grasp at thin air as the ball whizzed past him and smashed the top corner.

The Shaymen found a reply though just two minutes afterwards. An inviting cross from the right wing by Billy Waters found Matt Stenson at the back post who coolly slotted home to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Nerves were certainly high with the Spireites fanbase from this point onwards as they've witnessed a number of squandered leads in the final few minutes of games throughout the 2021/22 season. However, the Spireites defence were magnificent in dealing with the final 20 minutes of the game. The Chesterfield defence put in a number of heroic blocks and won countless headers to thwart the Shaymen as they desperately threw everything to try and grab an equaliser. Every single defender put in a very impressive performance to deny Halifax from even testing Scott Loach at the end of the game and to ensure the Spireites reached the play-off semi-final.

The only proper attempt that Halifax could muster was in stoppage time when a shot from 20 yards out was dragged comfortably wide of the post following a number of important blocks inside a crowded penalty area.

Soon afterwards, the final whistle was blown and was met with huge cheers from the terrific Chesterfield away supporters. It was certainly the strongest Spireites performance over the full 90 minutes for quite some time. Despite ending the regular league campaign in poor form, the Spireites are now just two victories away from a return to the football league.

Chesterfield team: Loach, Miller (Whittle 76), Maguire, Grimes (c), Williams, King, Kellermann, Whelan, Khan (McCourt 89), Mandeville, Rowe (Tyson 70). Unused subs: Denton, Rowley.

Attendance: 5,661

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