Blues’ play-off hopes hit by Spireites

Brian Jeeves
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Southend United v Chesterfield – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Report

Southend United 1-2 Chesterfield

By Dave Bishop

Southend United fell to their second defeat at Roots Hall in five days as Chesterfield, having beaten Gateshead on Saturday to end a run of nine games without a win, moved up to fourth place in the table following a hard-fought and gritty 2-1 victory.

With keeper Blondy Nna Noukeu having been recalled from his loan spell by Stoke City on the morning of the game, Kevin Maher made two changes to the team that started against Barnet, recalling fit again Steve Arnold to play his first game for Blues since mid-August with Harry Cardwell also coming into the side to replace Henry Sandat. 

Paul Cook named an unchanged starting line-up following the Gateshead win with new signing from Solihull Moors, Andrew Dallas, and Jeff King replacing Danny Rose and Brandon Horton on the Spireites bench.

After early pressure from Chesterfield, Blues twice went close twice when Harry Taylor played Callum Powell through to run on and strike his effort directly at keeper Ross Fitzsimons and just after, Cav Miley’s free-kick from the right-hand side was headed just past the post by Gus Scott-Morriss.

Chesterfield took the lead in the fourteenth minute when Laurence Maguire headed home Liam Mandeville’s corner, only for the same combination to go close once more six minutes later when Maguire nodded Mandeville’s free-kick just wide of the far post.

With the Spireites in the ascendency and looking dangerous going forward, Dagenham & Redbridge loanee Paul McCallum was unfortunate not to put the visitors two up just before the half-hour mark, when his header from Mandeville’s cross hit the underside of the bar to bounce to safety.

With Cardwell firing into the side netting from a tight angle and Jack Bridge’s shot forcing a full-length save from Fitzsimons, Blues had opportunities to draw level but could not find a way through the resolute Chesterfield defence, with the visitors going in still one goal to the good at the break.

Just after the start of the second half, Cardwell curled a twenty-five-yard free kick around the defensive wall only for his shot to be comfortably held by Fitzsimons.

Southend continued to press with Scott-Morriss heading Bridge’s corner onto the roof of the net on the hour mark and despite the introduction of Chris Wreh and Dan Mooney adding new impetus to the Blues attack, Chesterfield went 2-0 up in the sixty-fifth minute when after receiving a perfect pass from Ryheem Sheckleford, Ryan Colclough blasted a low twenty-five-yard drive past Arnold into the bottom right-hand corner of the net – his third goal in three games.

Blues rallied well and just two minutes later pulled one back when Wreh played in Cardwell to fire a low shot under Fitzsimons body from close range.

With Southend throwing everything into attack to try to find an equaliser, following great work by Wreh to keep the ball in play, Bridge set up Noor Husin’s first-time strike from fifteen yards out, only for Fitzsimons to save low diving to his left.

Deep into injury time, goalkeeper Arnold joined the attack for the final action of the game, getting on the end of Bridge’s corner to head the ball over the crossbar.

Following the defeat, the Blues remain eighth in the table and four points outside the play-off spots. They next travel to play league leaders Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground on Saturday, March 11 (3pm).

Southend United: Arnold, Scott-Morriss, Lomas (Ralph 81’) Hobson, Kensdale, Bridge, Husin, Powell (Wreh 61’) Taylor (Mooney 61’) Miley, Cardwell Subs not used: Andeng Ndi, Fonguck

Chesterfield: Fitzsimons, Akinola, Grimes, Maguire, Mandeville, Colclough (Banks 79’) Williams, McCallum (Quigley 69’) Sheckleford, Uchegbulam (Dallas 59’) Oldaker Subs not used: King, Palmer

Referee: Lloyd Wood

Assistant Referees: David Hutton and Lee Hartley

Fourth Official: James Keane

Attendance: 5,195 (126 from Chesterfield)

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk