Lincoln City were beaten 2-0 at home on Saturday by an impressive Chesterfield team at Sincil Bank.
A Trevor Carson howler gifted Craig Davies an opener for the visitors before a Dean Holden header secured all three points for John Sheridan’s men.
Steve Tilson made three changes to the team that battled back to rescue a point at Aldershot in midweek.
Full backs Paul Green and Jamie Clapham were relegated to the bench with Tilson preferring loanees Gavin Hoyte and Stephen Hunt on either side of Adam Watts and Danny Hone. Julian Kelly, who renewed his loan spell in the week also started at the expense of Ali Fuseini.
Chesterfield, despite sitting pretty at the summit of League Two, were without a win in five before the game and rung the changes at Sincil Bank.
Manager John Sheridan recalled the veteran Ian Breckin to his backline, along with the dangerous Drew Talbot and influential Derek Niven in midfield. Oldham loanee Deane Smalley was suspended meaning Scott Boden, the club’s all-time leading scorer from as a substitute, started up front with Craig Davies.
The away side, roared on by their vociferous support, very nearly took the lead on six minutes when ex-Scunthorpe midfielder Ian Morris struck a vicious effort from 30 yards which whistled past Trevor Carson’s left hand post. Soon after Kieran Djilali, who started brightly, hooked a shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
After 12 minutes Lincoln were forced into a change after Gavin Hoyte was caught by Djilali. Fuseini came on, meaning Julian Kelly reverted to right back.
Stephen Hunt provided City’s first effort of the game, but his low drive from range was helped wide by ex-Spurs goalkeeper Tommy Lee.
From the resulting corner, Chesterfield broke with a long ball up field. Carson looked to have the situation under control, and was under no immediate pressure, but the ball bounced off his leg and Davies pounced; hurdling the goalkeeper and tapping the ball into the empty net after a quarter of an hour.
Lincoln reacted well, and Ashley Grimes almost profited from a Delroy Facey knock-down but, under pressure, he helped the ball wide.
But at the other end Craig Davies was causing madness in the City penalty area. After 20 minutes, Watts hauled the striker to the ground, conceding a penalty. Davies himself immediately stepped up with a confident swagger, but his poorly-struck penalty was easily saved by Carson – who was handed redemption for his earlier howler.
The away side nearly doubled their lead on the half hour mark. Julian Kelly cleared off the line from Danny Whitaker, who had just been brought on for Simon Ford, before a wonderful leap from Davies had Carson at full stretch as the Sunderland loanee pulled off a fine save.
Ashley Grimes nearly equalised for Lincoln with five minutes left of the half. Adam Watts knocked the ball down from a corner but Grimes had his back to goal and his shot, on the twist, bobbled wide.
Half time came with City relieved to be just one down. The visitors could quite easily have been two or three up, but as things were the grateful Imps were still well in the game.
The same teams emerged for the second half and the Spireites had the first chance. Whitaker popped up in the hole between the City defence and midfield and slipped in Davies who shot wide from a tight angle.
Carson was again forced into action on 50 minutes, pulling off a sensational point blank save. The marauding left back Gregor Robertson broke into the area for Chesterfield and a Djilali cross found him. His header from six yards out was on target, but the best save of the lot from Carson denied him.
Lincoln were though slowly starting to add some pressure to the little-troubled Chesterfield defence. Delroy Facey provided a series of crosses which had Ian Breckin and Dean Holden worried but ultimately proved fruitless.
With 18 minutes to go, Steve Tilson introduced Mustapha Carayol to proceedings – the Gambian winger replacing Luke Howell in an attempt to give City more width.
City did have the ball in the back of the net soon after. Delroy Facey nodded on a long ball, which Grimes helped on to McCallum. The winger shrugged Breckin off before slotting past Lee. Unfortunately for the Canadian though, he was flagged offside.
Kieran Djilali receive the ball from Davies around 20 yards out with 14 minutes left and took advantage of the deep Lincoln City defence by firing a shot goalwards under little pressure from the Imps. However the effort whistled over.
Out-of-form frontman Ben Hutchinson was Lincoln’s final substitution, replacing Gavin McCallum. Meanwhile Jack Lester was introduced at the expense of Scott Boden for the visitors.
Chesterfield secured the win with seven minutes left when a corner kick found former Peterborough defender Dean Holden who nodded into the back of the net to end the Spireites’ winless run.
City tried to respond, first through Josh O’Keefe and then a speculative effort from Ashley Grimes, but couldn’t break through the stubborn Chesterfield defence and ended the game goalless.
Manager Steve Tilson praised his team despite the defeat.
Tilson said: “Fair play to the lads. We’ve dug in and had a right go today.
“We were always in the game. Even at 2-0 down we were pushing forward but it wasn’t quite to be today which is disappointing from that point of view…but they’ve given it everything they’ve got and we’ve got to make sure we’re right for Saturday [away to Barnet].”