Read via the Chesterfield Post
Chesterfield fittingly marked the end of the Jack Lester era with a resounding 4-0 victory against Exeter at the Proact.
Jay O’Shea opened the scoring and Marc Richards soon doubled the lead before Lester scored either side of half time to bow out from professional football in style.
The 37 year old partnered Marc Richards in attack, with Richard O’Donnell – making his first appearance since returning from a loan spell with Stockport County – replacing the injured Tommy Lee. Drew Talbot again showed his versatility, filling in at right back for Richard Brindley who limped off early on against Fleetwood with a hernia problem.
Lester captained Paul Cook’s side to make his 219th appearance for the Spireites and was soon involved after a deserved standing ovation before kick-off; a deep Conor Townsend cross from the left wing just evaded the striker at the back post only two minutes into his first start since early March.
Paul Tisdale’s Grecians came close to taking the lead two minutes later as former Norwich City forward Alan Gow saw his curling effort fly just wide of O’Donnell’s far post.
Both sides struggled to find a foothold in the game in a lacklustre opening 10 minutes. Mark Randall threaded a ball through to Lester who reached the byline and crossed in search of Marc Richards but keeper Artur Krysiak routinely collected the ball on 12 minutes in what was Chesterfield’s first genuine attempt on goal.
Another ovation for Lester came during the 14th minute in tribute to his famous shirt number, but Gow again came close to dampening the atmosphere minutes later as the Scotsman found himself through on goal, only for Drew Talbot to nudge the ball to safety and keep the score level.
Jay O’Shea retained his position on the left wing and showed glimpses of his undoubted ability in the first half. The former MK Dons winger neatly turned to create space just outside the 18 yard box on 21 minutes and unleashed a thunderous strike that sailed into the top right hand corner, leaving Krysiak with no chance.
Exeter responded well and again threatened 5 minutes later. Mark Randall gave away possession softly in a dangerous position and Grecians forward Scott Bennett almost capitalised, his effort from distance just rising over O’Donnell’s crossbar.
Conor Townsend, in what will be more than likely his last appearance for Chesterfield after a successful loan spell, delivered a teasing free kick from the right on the half hour mark and Marc Richards’ glancing header nestled in the bottom corner to double the Spireites’ lead.
The celebrations after Richards’ eleventh of the season had barely ended as Lester received a pass with his back to goal and embarked on a trademark drop of the shoulder inside the box, only to be brought down by Jordan Moore-Taylor after 33 minutes.
Referee Tony Bates awarded a penalty much to the delight of the the Spireite support and Lester showed his class under pressure to send the keeper the wrong way and chip the ball into the back of the net for his 93rd goal for Chesterfield, sending the Proact into euphoria.
Paul Cook’s side started to dominate from then on with Exeter offering very little in response. Tendayi Darikwa displayed hints of the form that earned him the League Two young player of the month award in December before being ruled out for over a month after a hernia operation.
The 21 year old caused Exeter’s left back problems throughout the game and linked well with Jay O’Shea just before the break, O’Shea’s pinpoint cross was cleared excellently by captain Danny Coles to deny Lester an almost certain second of the afternoon.
Town started the second half as they had ended the first. Almost straight from the kick-off Sam Togwell linked well with Lester who set up the on rushing O’Shea to shoot from distance, but the Irish winger could not recreate his stunning opening goal and Krysiak saved comfortably.
Exeter boss Paul Tisdale reshuffled his side with a substitution in an attempt to keep the score line respectable but his defence struggled to deal with some intelligent through balls by Mark Randall and Jay O’Shea.
On the hour mark O’Shea again found himself in space 30 yards from goal and looked to shoot but instead fed Jack Lester through with an defence-splitting pass for the veteran striker to claim his second of the match, with a typically calmly taken finish.
With the game all but won Danny Whitaker replaced O’Shea in what may have been the mancunian’s last game for the Spireites after falling out of contention for a starting place in recent months.
Richards was replaced by Armand Gnanduillet minutes later before Jack Lester signed off for the last time in professional football, replaced by Alex Henshall on 75 minutes to an emphatic ovation by all in attendance.
A more subdued atmosphere after Lester’s exit could have been worsened had it not been for an excellent double save by O’Donnell to deny substitute Elliot Chamberlain and then Scott Bennett from close range to keep a clean sheet and ensure Chesterfield’s biggest league win this season.
After the match assistant manager Tommy Wright was effusive in his praise for Lester.
He said: ‘I think the players wanted to win it for Jack. It was great for him to score two goals and I don’t think the script could have been better.
‘It was a great day and it’s a credit to all the players that they put on a performance like that for a great professional and a good man. He’s been a model professional, he’s always wanted to play every game. He’s been a great finisher and I’m sad to see him go.’