Notts County claimed a fourth successive draw in Sky Bet League 1 after a fast-paced and action-packed game against Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium on Saturday.
A single goal for each team either side of half time failed to tell the tale of a lively and entertaining encounter, filled with chances and finely balanced until the very last kick of the game.
Midfielder Alan Smith returned to captain a side that showed four changes to that which started the 0-0 draw with Oldham Athletic last weekend, with Blair Adams welcomed back from injury and the inclusion of Nicky Wroe and Curtis Thompson the other two changes, as Mustapha Dumbuya, Gary Jones, Ronan Murray and Danny Haynes dropped out, with the latter two named on the bench.
Roared on by over 1,200 travelling supporters at their backs in the first half, Notts got off to a flying start when a throw-in from the right was flicked on in the area by Haydn Hollis and Zeli Ismail was well placed to get a header in from close range that Tommy Lee in the home goal did well to save at full stretch and turn behind for a corner.
The home side weren’t about to lie down though, with the potent attacking threat of Eoin Doyle, the division’s top scorer, and the imposing Armand Gnanduillet looking to profit from quick breaks down either flank but never really troubling Roy Carroll in the Notts goal with their final product.
With the game continuing at a frantic pace, it was Notts who made the breakthrough, initiated by a great run down the left by Jordan Cranston, who chased the ball to the byline and won a corner, from which the delivery came out to Wroe, whose driven effort back across goal had to be deflected behind.
The quickly taken second corner then came back out to the edge of the area once more, this time the left corner of the box, where Adams collected and hit a lovely low strike into the opposite corner of the net to give Notts the lead with his first goal for the club.
Chesterfield had a great chance to level things up five minutes later when Sam Clucas’ cross from the right was deflected by Curtis Thompson and fell to Jay O’Shea but he couldn’t capitalise as he flicked his effort wide of the post to the relief of the Notts fans in the stand behind the goal.
It was then Notts’ turn to go close, as the first half reached the midway point, as Adams found himself presented with a similar chance to that which had seen him open the scoring eight minutes earlier, but this time he was denied by the far post and as the ball span back across goal, it was Chesterfield who were able to gather and alleviate the danger.
The home side continued to press, with Gnanduillet a constant threat upfront, although the big striker continually failed to find the target when chances were created for him and it was his strike partner Doyle who came closest to drawing the Spireites back level.
After Ollie Banks had been booked for a clumsy late challenge on Ismail and O’Shea had seen an effort from the edge of the area fly wide of the post, it took a fantastic goalline save by Carroll to deny Doyle in the 38th minute.
The lively Daniel Johnson got a cross in from the left that fell to Doyle at the far post and he headed deftly back across goal, only to be denied by the hand of the Notts keeper, who was relieved moments later to see another header from Gnanduillet drift over his bar as the ball was played back in.
It was backs to the wall stuff for Notts at times as the half continued apace, with Liam Noble twice getting important blocks in on the edge of the area and Smith getting back well to help out at the back, putting his boot through anything that came near him in the dying minutes of the opening period, which was extended by three minutes of injury time.
HT: Chesterfield 0 Notts County 1
The interval had given both sets of supporters time to draw breath after an action-packed opening period, but there was no let-up in the pace of the game once the action resumed, with Chesterfield again enjoying the better of it in the opening exchanges, although their best opportunity in the early stages of the half came on the counter-attack.
A quick break down their left flank saw a long, cross-field ball pick out Gnanduillet at the far post and his header back across goal presented Doyle with the chance to shoot from close-range, needing a fantastic block on the line by Jordan Cranston to deny the home side.
It was to be a warning sign for Notts and the start of a sustained spell of pressure for the home side, with Johnson curling a decent effort from the edge of the area just wide of the post shortly after and then O’Shea dragging a shot wide from a similar distance.
The frustration of Notts striker Jake Cassidy boiled over in the 56th minute, as he was booked for kicking the ball away after conceding a freekick when battling to regain possession as he tracked back from a rare attack by the visitors.
Perhaps looking to add more support for his striker, Notts Manager Shaun Derry brought on Shaun Harrad for Wroe two minutes later and it sparked new life into his side momentarily, as a deep cross from the right by Ismail found Adams at the far post, but he was bundled out of it as he looked to get a header in and Lee was able to claim it.
Notts were on the back foot again shortly after though and it would be a spell that would bring about the equaliser for Chesterfield, as first Georg Margreitter hit the bar with a header from inside the area and then Banks was denied by the follow-up, but it was from the resulting corner that the home side drew level.
Margreitter, having been denied moments earlier, rose well to meet the ball in and this time made no mistake, hammering his header home to restore parity to the scoreline in the 62nd minute.
Having lost the lead, Notts also lost their goalscorer six minutes later, when Adams was forced off after taking a knock, with Garry Thompson coming on to replace him.
The change in personnel did little to alter the pace of the game though, as Chesterfield continued to press forward and it took another goalmouth clearance, this time from Louis Laing, to deny Johnson, before Notts had a good chance of their own.
Harrad broke through, saw his initial effort blocked by Lee, who came out well to meet him, but the Notts striker did brilliantly to shape himself and hit the ball over his head, needing a header off the line to deny him and hand the visitors a corner, from which Hollis flashed a header just wide of the post.
There were bookings for Noble, for a sliding challenge on Johnson and Smith, for disrupting a quick freekick after conceding a foul on the edge of his area, which came either side of Chesterfield’s first substitution, with Dan Gardner coming on to replace O’Shea in the 80th minute.
That Notts would come away with a share of the points was down in no small part to goalkeeper Carroll, who made a string of fine saves in the final mintues of the game, denying Doyle and Johnson, the first of which needed yet another goalline clearance, by Harrad, to clear the danger, before substitute Gardner was denied by the boot of the Northern Ireland custodian.
With six minutes added on at the end there was still time for further bookings for Cranston and Clucas, before Noble had two chances to claim the victory against the balance of play, first seeing a shot deflected wide and then having a header from inside the area collected comfortably enough by Lee.
When it came, the referee’s whistle brought an end to a frantic match that Notts will come away happy with a point from and Chesterfield will feel they could have won, having spurned a number of chances and been denied by some brave defensive work and solid goalkeeping by man of the match Carroll.
FT: Chesterfield 1 Notts County 1