Rochdale came from two goals behind to secure a point at the Proact Stadium on Tuesday evening.
It looked like Dale would be heading for their first defeat since New Year’s Day, but a 90th minute penalty from Ian Henderson and stoppage time header from Peter Vincenti ensured a dramatic come back for Rochdale.
Gary Roberts had put the home side ahead in the 39th minute, before Marc Richards doubled their with 70 minutes on the clock. Dale’s never say die attitude and the fighting spirit, which has served them well this season, was prevalent as Rochdale struck twice late in the game to deny the Spireites three points.
Henderson pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the 90th minute after Richards was adjudged to have handled on the line. He was shown a red and Chesterfield were reduced to ten men. The momentum was with Dale as they went in search of what had seemed like an unlikely equaliser, and Vincenti was there to smash home a last minute corner.
Manager Keith Hill made six changes for the match – Joe Rafferty, Gary Dicker, Matty Lund, Scott Hogan, Graham Cummins and Gary Dicker started ahead of Rhys Bennett, Michael Rose, Peter Cavangh, Jamie Allen and George Donnelly.
It was a lively but fairly even opening period at the Proact, with both sides having opportunities during the early exchanges.
In the 8th minute, Gary Roberts carved the home side’s first chance of the game as he twist and turned on the left hand side of play before delivering the ball into a packed box. Ollie Banks got on the end of the cross, but could only glance a header wide of the target.
And three minutes later Cummins was denied by an outstretching Tommy Lee.
Bunney had sent a fizzing ball across the face of goal from the right hand side, and as the ball looked set to run out of play for a goal kick on the opposite side, Hogan was able to keep it in and he sent the ball back into the area. Cummins rose high on the edge of the six yard box and headed across a full stretched Lee, who pulled off a fine save to keep the score level.
In the fifteenth minute, Keith Hill was forced into making his first substitution of the match as an injured Olly Lancashire was replaced by Rhys Bennett.
The game soon settled, with neither team truly finding a foothold on the game. Opportunities were limited as a midfield battled ensued, but it was shortly before the half hour mark when the Spireites began to ask questions of the Dale defence.
With 27 minutes on the clock, Banks beat the offside trap before chipping the ball over the head of Lills who had come well off his line. Fortunately for Dale, the frontman was unable to make the most of his opportunity and the ball was eventually cleared back into play.
Two minutes later, Dale had a chance from a free-kick, but Lee was there to deny Henderson from an acute angle.
In the 37th minute The Spireites had a golden opportunity as Jack O’Connell mis-hit a clearance , allowing Marc Richards in on goal. He was unable to capitalise and sent his effort wide of the upright.
But just moments later Roberts put Chesterfield ahead.
Matty Done was originally caught out but did well to recover and get back to put in a timely challenge. Disappointingly, the ball hit off a Dale team mate and landed in the path of Roberts who made no mistake in sending the ball beyond Lillis from inside the area.
GOAL: Chesterfield 1-0 Rochdale (Roberts, 39 minutes).
HT: Chesterfield 1-0 Rochdale
There was a further substitution for Dale at the interval as Cummins was replaced by Vincenti. Paul Cook also made a change, with Jay Talbot making way for Sam Hird.
Rochdale were improved after the break and substitute Vincenti was involved in Dale’s first real opportunity of the half.
In the 53rd minute he found Henderson, who fired a powerful effort from 20 yards narrowly wide of the upright.
While Dale shaded the early exchanges, it became a fairly even affair and almost scrappy affair as the half progressed and Rochdale’s next opportunity on goal came from distance shortly after the hour mark - Henderson sending a bobbling strike past the post from 35-yards.
But it was just five minutes later that Chesterfield doubled their lead.
In what was a scramble inside the area, Bennett had blocked an initial effort from the Spireites on the line, but as the ball fell for Richards, he smashed it past Lillis and into the back of the net.
GOAL: Chesterfield 2-0 Rochdale (67 minutes)
After the goal, the match seemed to peter out, but there was late drama at the Proact Stadium as Dale scored twice in as many to produce a late come back.
In the 89 minute Dale were awarded a spot-kick and Chesterfield were reduced to ten men after Richards was adjudged to have handled on line.
Henderson took the resulting penalty and struck it well past Lee.
GOAL: Chesterfield 2-1 Rochdale (Henderson, 90)
With momentum in Dale’s favour they went in search of what had seemed like an unlikely equaliser, and deep in stoppage time Vincenti smashed home a header to seal a point for Keith Hill’s side.
Dale had won a corner after Rafferty had forced Lee into a finger tip save, and it was from the resulting corner ball that Vincenti rose high to power a header beyond Lee.
GOAL: Chesterfield 2-2 Rochdale (Vincenti, 92+2)
It finished Chesterfield 2, Rochdale 2.