The relentless heavy rain matched the sombre mood at Home Park after Plymouth Argyle’s fifth home npower League Two defeat of the season on Saturday.
There was almost an air of predictability about Chesterfield’s win after the Pilgrims had dominated the first half. They created a series of scoring chances before the break, hitting the crossbar once, but could not break through.
Chesterfield made the most of the hosts’ profligacy when they took the lead in the 66th minute with a goal from Marc Richards and then stood firm against all Argyle could throw at them.
Substitutions proved to have an important impact as Chesterfield came out on top. The Spireites’ boss Paul Cook changed tactics in the 62nd minute when he sent on 37-year-old striker Jack Lester for midfielder Danny Whitaker.
They switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2, with Lester pushed into their attack with Richards. Within four minutes, a cross from former Arsenal midfielder,Luis Boa Morte led to the only goal of the game.
Lester touched the cross from Boa Morte inside to Richards and he curled the ball into the net, leaving goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin with no hope of saving it.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher did not make his first substitution until the 73rd minute, and it was a straight swap when winger Joe Lennox replaced Andres Gurrieri.
Soon afterwards, Nick Chadwick and Paris Cowan-Hall were taken off for Rhys Griffiths and Guy Madjo.
Cowan-Hall, Argyle’s top scorer, had been lively, so it was a surprise when he was sacrificed. His departure also meant Alex MacDonald moved from a central attacking position, where he had been influential, to a wide role.
After the substitutions, and with time running out, Argyle tried to force openings rather than create them, and that suited the Spireites.
Fortune was also against the Pilgrims, though. They should have been awarded a penalty in the 81st minute when a cross from Lennox struck an outstretched arm of left-back Nathan Smith. Referee Graham Scott thought otherwise, however, and allowed play to continue.
At the start of the game, Cowan-Hall forced Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee into an early save and centre-back Curtis Nelson had a couple of chances for Argyle as they started to take control.
First, he saw a goalbound shot smack against Chesterfield’s Liam Cooper and the ball was scrambled away. Then Nelson had a header saved by Lee, after a deep cross from stand-in Argyle skipper Conor Hourihane.
Plymouth had a good spell after the half-hour mark as the visitors’ defence struggled to contain them. MacDonald had a fierce shot pushed away by Lee at his near post in the 33rd minute. The chance came when debutant Mark Molesley lofted the ball back to MacDonald, after the latter had taken a deep corner.
Moments later, from another MacDonald corner, Nelson’s header was cleared away from close to the goal-line by Richards.
Argyle kept up the pressure and Gurrieri’s side-foot volley seemed destined for the net until it hit Chesterfield’s Sam Togwell on the way. The ball was deflected on to the top of the bar and bounced out of play for a corner.
Cowan-Hall then put the ball into the side netting from a tight angle, after a MacDonald free-kick in the 38th minute. MacDonald and Chadwick had further chances before half-time, but they could not hit the target.
Chesterfield threatened first after the interval, with 35-year-old Boa Morte firing an angled 35-yard drive narrowly wide of the far post.
Gilmartin made saves from Tendayi Darikwa and Cooper as the Spireites had a good spell around the hour-mark. In response, Chadwick badly miscued a chance from close range after the ball was headed back to him by Onismor Bhasera in the 65th minute.
Moments later, Chesterfield were celebrating after taking the lead. Boa Morte’s left-wing cross was chested back by Lester to Richards and he expertly placed the ball beyond the reach of Gilmartin.
Richards was Port Vale’s top scorer in each of the last four seasons, and his clinical finish showed exactly why that had been the case.
Argyle almost equalised immediately, but MacDonald’s low 20-yard shot went agonisingly wide of the right post.
After the introduction of Griffiths and Madjo, the Pilgrims went more direct than they had done before, and it did not work. Chesterfield defended solidly, which was just as well for them because Lee flapped at nearly every cross into the penalty area.
Scott added on four minutes of stoppage time, but Argyle could not find a way through.