Southend United extended their unbeaten run to 12 games as they held second-placed Chesterfield to a 2-2 draw at the Technique Stadium.
Chesterfield took the lead in the ninth minute through Jeff King’s long-range effort which gave the Spireites the lead going into half time.
Blues started the second half fantastically and equalised in the 52nd minute through a Sam Dalby penalty as he righted his wrongs after missing from the spot back in November against The Spireites.
Chesterfield again took the lead with 12 minutes remaining when Calvin Miller was left unmarked before Blues spoiled the party with an own goal from substitute Fraser Kerr meaning the points were shared in Derbyshire.
Kevin Maher named one change from the side that drew 1-1 with Solihull Moors last Saturday with Kacper Lopata returning from a calf injury to replace Jason Demetriou who dropped to the bench.
The hosts showed signs of their strength early on when Calvin Miller’s dangerous cross found Liam Mandeville who headed wide and Chesterfield carried on their early domination by taking the lead in the ninth minute when Jeff King’s 30-yard effort was caught by the wind, leaving Steve Arnold with little chance in the Blues net.
Buoyed by an eleven-game unbeaten run, Southend were undeterred in their efforts as they slowly grew into the match.
Nathan Ralph had a good chance to level things in the 15th minute when he was picked out by a neat Will Atkinson cross before firing wide of the post. Then in the 30th minute, a Ralph flick-on from a Harrison Neal corner was cleared off the line by Liam Mandeville.
It seemed that nothing was falling in Blues’ favour when in the 34th minute Sam Dalby headed the ball past Scott Loach in the Chesterfield net only for referee Aaron Jackson to pull play back for an adjudged foul on Jamie Grimes.
Any signs that Chesterfield were to sit back and defend their lead were quickly forgotten when Arnold had to pull off a good save to deny Akwasi Asante’s deflected effort with the Spireites going into half time the happier of the two sides.
Southend started the second half with a point to prove and did just that in the 47th minute as Leon Davies won a corner for the visitors before Nathan Ralph forced a fingertip save from Scott Loach in what was his 500th appearance as a goalkeeper.
Backed by 803 Essex faithful, Maher’s men were keen to give the Blues fans something to cheer about and they were rewarded when in the 50th minute, Will Atkinson went through on goal after a mix-up in the Spireites’ defence before being brought down by Loach for a penalty.
Sam Dalby stepped up to take the spot-kick – at the scene where the young forward missed a penalty in the FA Cup in November – and it was almost a case of deja vu when Loach got two hands to his effort, but this time the ball would spin into the back of the net, much to the relief of Dalby and the Southend fans behind the goal.
Blues were playing with confidence and limited Paul Cook’s side to any chances which led to the former Ipswich Town boss making two changes when Joe Rowley and Scott Quigley were brought on for Jim Kellermann and Asante either side of the hour mark.
Both sides were now creating chances at either end with Atkinson going close with a header that hit the side netting before Arnold needed to dive low to his right to produce a tremendous save and deny Quigley at his near post.
Chesterfield however would retake the lead in the 78th minute when Calvin Miller was left unmarked in the box, enabling the full-back to get on the end of a right-wing cross from King to put the home side back in front.
The Spireites almost doubled their advantage in the 82nd minute when Quigley met Rowley’s low driven cross only for the striker to send his effort blazing over the crossbar from a matter of yards out.
Determined to keep the unbeaten run going, Maher made a couple of attacking changes with Jack Bridge and Callum Powell coming on and Powell went close to levelling things after running through on goal, but he was unable to keep his curled effort on target.
Chesterfield again had an opportunity to double the lead a minute later when Rowley skipped past Ralph and Lopata before smashing his effort off the underside of Arnold’s crossbar.
Calvin Miller was brought off for Fraser Kerr for The Spirerites final change as the home side looked to hold onto their lead, but with Kerr’s first touch of the game, he sliced the ball into his own net from Bridge’s cross as the Blues’ fans erupted behind the goal.
Chesterfield had several set-piece chances in stoppage time but Blues held firm to remain 12th. Southend return to league action on Tuesday 8th March as they host Grimsby Town at Roots Hall hoping to stretch their unbeaten run to 13 games.
Chesterfield XI: Loach, Miller (Kerr 87’), Maguire, Weston, Asante (Quigley 64’), Mandeville, Grimes ©, Kellermann (Rowley 54’), Whittle, Whelan. Not used: Minter, Williams, Kerr.
Blues XI: Arnold, Ralph ©, Hobson, Dalby, Atkinson, Neal, Lopata, Davies, Dennis (Powell 76’), Kensdale (Bridge 82’), Husin. Not used: Dunne, Demetriou, Wood.
Referee: Aaron Jackson
Assistants: Michael D’Aguilar & Jacob Lehane
Fourth Official: Jack Forder
Chesterfield: Jeff King 9’, Calvin Miller 78’
Southend United: Sam Dalby 52’, Fraser Kerr OG 88’
Chesterfield: Scott Loach 50’, Alex Whittle 79’, Tom Whelan 86'
Southend United: None
Attendance: 6,626 (803)