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Chesterfield negotiated a potential banana skin FA Cup first round tie against FC United of Manchester with a professionally earned 1-4 victory at Broadhurst Park.
Early goals from Gboly Ariyibi and Lee Novak put the Spireites in the driving seat before second half substitutes Rai Simons and Ollie Banks put the match to bed, with Luke Ashworth adding a consolation for the non-leaguers late on.
The win secured a Second Round tie with League One high-flyers Walsall at the Proact Stadium on the weekend of December 5th.
In a first round weekend punctuated by non-league triumphs over Football League clubs, Dean Saunders’ side avoided the mistakes made by the likes of Notts County in their defeat by Salford City with a polished first half performance on a pitch that had been drained of 30,000 litres of water by Manchester Fire Service.
The efforts of the Fire Service and FC’s 300 volunteers allowed the tie to go ahead and Saunders named a strong starting XI as Richard Wood made his debut while Dan Jones, Novak and Ariyibi returned the side.
And it was Ariyibi who offered the first chance of the game with a teasing cross aimed at Sylvan Ebanks-Blake who lurked at the back post, only left back Adam Thurston to clear to safety.
The game continued at a blistering pace and FC made their intentions known on six minutes when Sam Sheridan, son of ex-Chesterfield boss John, fired just wide of Tommy Lee’s post with his effort rocketing into the St. Mary’s Road End which housed an impassioned FC support whose protests against the television-enforced Monday night fixture rang throughout the night.
But only seconds later Chesterfield went one better as a Sylvan Ebanks-Blake beat the offside trap on the left flank and reached the byline to cutback for Ariyibi who found the bottom corner with a composed finish from 12 yards, handing the Spireites a relieving early lead.
FC United of Manchester 0-1 Chesterfield (Ariyibi, 7′)
And Saunders’ side used their momentum to carve a second just five minutes later as a neat interchange down the left flank found Ebanks-Blake who beat the offside trap and crossed for Novak to fire home at the near post with a well-taken half volley.
FC United of Manchester 0-2 Chesterfield (Novak, 12′)
Despite going two down, FC pressed high up the pitch under the command of manager Karl Marginson and the National League North outfit began to find a foothold in the game with Sheridan and Tom Greaves both having sights on goal.
Neither effort troubled Lee however as the partnership between Novak and Ebanks-Blake developed at the other end.
Birmingham loanee Novak, on his return to the side after the birth of his child, found Ebanks-Blake who played in Jay O’Shea on the edge of the box but the Irishman’s subsequent tumble and soft claim for a penalty was waved away by referee Oliver Lawford.
Sam Morsy alongside relished the physicality posed by the non-league side and the Spireites captain, along with Chris Herd, controlled the middle of the park.
And Morsy almost added a third when he made a forceful run from his own half to the edge of the penalty area but his goal bound effort flew just wide of ‘keeper David Carnell’s near post.
FC struggled to create clear cut opportunities in the final third with winger Rory Fallon’s speculative efforts from distance the closest that Lee came to being troubled.
Half time: FC United of Manchester 0-2 Chesterfield
Marginson replaced his two wingers at half time and the second half started as a more open affair with Chesterfield less convincing.
On 46 minutes FC captain Jerome Wright delivered a teasing cross into the corridor of uncertainty between goalkeeper and defender and a mix up in communication between Lee and Wood saw the Rotherham United loanee head just wide of his own post.
The subsequent corner was cleared as far as Sheridan on the edge of the box but the midfielder’s volleyed effort flashed wide of the upright.
Saunders made two substitutions on 54 minutes with Banks and Simons replacing Herd and Ebanks-Blake respectively. It was a particularly pertinent substitute appearance for Banks who made 18 appearances for FC before being snapped up by the Spireites in 2013.
The fresh legs contrasted those of a labouring FC as Simons was afforded acres of space on the left flank and Morsy switched the play excellently to find the 19-year-old who made up for a poor first touch with a well taken chip over the ‘keeper for a third.
FC United of Manchester 0-3 Chesterfield (Simons, 67′)
As the second half grew older the difference in fitness between the two sides began to tell as Chesterfield nullified the threat posed by Greaves and Wright up front, who were marshalled by an impressive debut partnership of Ian Evatt and Wood.
Charlie Raglan replaced Morsy on 70 minutes to face his former club and received a warm reception from the FC supporters as Saunders reverted to five at the back.
And Banks put the game beyond doubt on 85 minutes when he capitalised on a slip from an FC defender and saw his 20-yard strike nestle in the bottom right hand corner.
FC United of Manchester 0-4 Chesterfield (Banks, 85′)
But the FC fans were not left disappointed when substitute Greg Daniels delivered a teasing corner which was met by a powerful header at the back post by Ashworth whose effort nestled into the top corner.
FC United of Manchester 1-4 Chesterfield (Ashworth, 90′)
Full Time: FC United of Manchester 1-4 Chesterfield
After the match, Saunders reflected on getting the proverbial job done.
“We had a great start. Fair play to the players, we’ve not shown them any disrespect,” he said.
“I told them that the conditions weren’t the best and that these had some good players and their supporters would be magnificent. We scored two quick goals and that probably won us the game.
“When they [The FA] moved the game back, it was for a reason; they could smell an upset. It’s live on TV for a reason because they’re all waiting for us to get beaten. I’ve been involved in these games before down the years and you’ve got to make sure you match the opposition’s work rate.
“We’ve got better players than them so all we have to do is work as hard as them and show the same desire to get through to the next round.
“Sometimes players who aren’t as good as you want to win more than you and they overcome you, but we’ve scored two quick goals and it’s probably knocked the stuffing out of them.”
Chesterfield face Oldham at the Proact on Saturday in SkyBet League One.