A LATE own goal from Chesterfield’s Chris Atkinson handed Fleetwood Town a vital victory on the road.
Fleetwood, off the boil of late, made a blistering start and were ahead after just five minutes.
Junior Brown’s hard work earned them a corner on the left-hand side, only half cleared by the Spireites.
Town forced the ball back into the box where Steven Gillespie found space to turn, firing low with his left foot past Richard O’Donnell in the Chesterfield goal.
It was a dream start for Fleetwood and things almost got better ten minutes in when Tom Barkhuizen found a way through the Chesterfield lines, the youngster unable to make meaningful contact to turn the ball past O’Donnell.
It was all Fleetwood and Micky Mellon’s men had another golden opportunity to stretch their lead when Jamie McGuire got on the end of a long throw from Barkhuizen, O’Donnell reacting quickly in the Chesterfield goal to deny Town’s skipper.
Chesterfield, in the first 20 minutes created little to worry Scott Davies in the Fleetwood goal.
They could, however have levelled – Luis Boa Morte showing his pedigree to beat Conor McLaughlin down the Fleetwood right, his low cross almost turned into the Fleetwood net by McGuire.
It was a rare spark from the home side, struggling to retain possession in their own half, handing Fleetwood opportunities to pressure them in the final third.
And Town should have capitalised just before the half-hour, Barkhuizen with a glorious ball from the left channel, just beyond Gillespie – had a man been lurking at the back post the visitors would undoubtedly have doubled their advantage.
Gillespie could easily have had three in the first 35 minutes, the striker handed another chance just after the half hour.
McGuire’s run carved Chesterfield in two, Barkhuizen’s cross a peach, Gillespie stretching but unable to provide the icing on the cake.
Fleetwood should have been in the clear but, with the advantage just one goal, Chesterfield were a source of concern on the break – Boa Morte the creative heart of their side and a real handful for Dean Howell.
And, with just minutes of the first half remaining, the home side managed to draw level.
Town struggled to deal with a long throw from the left-hand side, the ball half cleared to Tendayi Darikwa, whose volley was right out of the top drawer, Scott Davies beaten the moment the ball left the midfielder’s boot.
Deserved or not it gave Chesterfield a vital foothold at the break, one the almost capitalised on within minutes of the re-start, Rob Edwards denying Jack Lester after another Boa Morte move.
The Spirites were back in the game and beginning to cause Fleetwood problems – Chris Atkinson allowed far too much space on the edge of the visitors’ area before McGuire’s agricultural, if not very timely, intervention.
At the other end Barkhuizen’s fine night was continuing, the winger skipping past his man, the cross well behind McGuire.
It was now the home side in the ascendancy and, on the hour, they should have grabbed the lead, Drew Talbot’s cross causing all sorts of trouble in the Fleetwood area, Lester and Chris Atkinson both failing to make contact as the ball fizzed across Scott Davies’ goal. Despite the change in the balance of power Micky Mellon still fancied Town’s chances of taking all three points, a second striker, David Ball, replacing Barkhuizen
Next to be thrown into the action was Jamie Milligan, whose first duty was to take a free kick, whipped on to the head of McGuire, the ball spinning over the bar – an offside flag raised against the Town midfielder in any case.
Fleetwood were, though, enjoying a bit of a purple patch, finding ways beyond the Spireites defence – Gillespie unlucky to see his run cut short, Ball unable to find that vital extra yard when needed.
It looked to be fizzling out with five minutes – right up until Chesterfield launched a lightening attack, Scott Davies rushing out to deny Darikwa an almost certain second –Brown lying hurt in the opposite penalty area.
With time running out it looked like Fleetwood Town’s early domination would count for nothing.
Step up Jamie Milligan, his free-kick –another belter – was flicked on to the post by Youl Mawene.
Brown, back on his feet, reacting to hack the ball goalwards, Chesterfield’s Chris Atkinson helping the ball over the line.
The home side threw bodies forward from the re-start but it was too late and, even with five minutes of added time to contend with, Fleetwood stood firm to cement their place in the top three.