Torquay United increased their lead at the top of the National League on Monday with a 2-0 win over Chesterfield at the Technique Stadium.
A goal in either half from Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Billy Waters respectively earned a crucial three points for the Gulls as the season reaches its business end.
There was a mass exodus among the Chesterfield ranks as five changes were made to the side that were beaten by Hartlepool United on Saturday. Jack Clarke, Joel Taylor, Nathan Tyson, Curtis Weston and own-goal scorer Josef Yarney each missed out, with their places taken by captain Gavin Gunning, Liam Mandeville, Kai Mitchell, Martin Smith and Alex Whittle.
Gary Johnson named just a single change for the visitors as Chesterfield loanee Scott Boden made way for forward Benji Kimipioka’s second Torquay start.
The match started remarkably evenly as both sides enjoyed decent spells in attack. Chesterfield came close to finding the opener in the 10th minute when Mitchell headed just wide of the mark after finding heaps of space at the back post. The miss rounded off a plundering few minutes for the Spireites.
Torquay took the lead just a minute later. The visitors broke forward in numbers, with captain Asa Hall bringing the ball forward. Chesterfield covered the onrushing attackers well but left alone midfielder Jake Andrews, who had backed off and taken up space at the edge of the box. The 23-year-old received the ball from his skipper and took one look up before firing an inch-perfect pass onto the run of Lemonheigh-Evans, who, with no man in his path, coolly slid the ball beyond goalkeeper Grant Smith.
Chesterfield responded well to the deficit and ramped up the intensity. Striker Danny Rowe saw a golden opportunity go begging on the half-hour mark when he fought free from the physical defence and bore down upon the Torquay net. The 31-year-old’s shot was powerful but Brazilian ‘keeper Lucas Covolan Cavagnari did just enough to save with his feet.
The Spireites started far better in the second half and were camped deep into the Torquay half. Substitute Adi Yussuf instilled a new lease of life in the waning attack, and his sprightly tempo was immediately an issue for the United defence.
On the hour mark, Yussuf came inches from drawing his side level. Having broken free from Ben Wynter’s weak challenge, the Tanzanian shaped up to shoot and guided his effort past stranded ‘keeper Covolan. The shot slowed significantly on the sodden surface as the ball drew closer to the goal line and it was left to a heroic dive from full-back Dean Moxey to keep it out.
United doubled their lead 12 minutes from time, albeit against the run of play. After a free-kick was deflected up into the air, the ball was met from range by a sublime volley from 26-year-old Waters which nestled into the bottom-left corner. An outstretched Smith stood very little chance as the ball emerged from a crowd of bodies.
Chesterfield saw out the tie on the front foot and applied an immense amount of pressure but failed to find the net despite a plethora of half-chances.