Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has warned striker Michael Higdon he faces a battle to get back into the Blades side after his derby red card.
The United striker was sent off in the 29th minute for a rash tackle on Daniel Jones, just one of several controversial incidents at Chesterfield.
Spireites goalkeeper Tommy Lee was also given his marching orders before half-time – for tripping Ryan Flynn as he broke clear – and several key decisions from referee Mark Brown went against the Blades.
Georg Margreitter was only shown a yellow card after tangling with Jamie Murphy – “It was a clear red card,” seethed Clough.
The Blades manager also said several other calls worked against the visitors, including Eoin Doyle’s goal, which Clough claimed was offside.
Clough took video evidence to referee Brown after the final whistle to back-up his claims, although he admitted the loss was partly self-inflicted.
Higdon will be fined for his red card, and debutant defender Paddy McCarthy apologised to his new team-mates after his error gifted Gary Roberts a second goal for Chesterfield.
There was nothing United could do to stop Jimmy Ryan’s stunning long-range opener in the 26th minute.
But Higdon’s departure three minutes later left Clough fuming.
“In the context of the game, I thought it was a yellow card,” said Clough, whose side pulled back late goals through Marc McNulty and Neill Collins.
“You are disappointed when experienced players make those decisions, just like Paddy McCarthy for the second goal. If we could have got to half-time at 1-0, 10 against 10, we might have got something from the game. I haven’t spoken to him (Higdon), I just told him he would be fined for the tackle, but I am more disappointed with the officials than I am with him.
“It’s getting the balance between being aggressive, fighting for everything, and not giving the referee an opportunity to send you off.
“It will be a fine, he will miss three games and see if he gets back in the team. He will have to work to get back, I might bring in a striker now.
“Chris Porter will be involved, Marc McNulty has got himself another goal; I don’t think he (Higdon) will get straight back in the team.”
Of his dissatisfaction with the referee’s handling of the game, Clough commented: “Decisions changed the game, from the first minute to the last.
“One or two of our decisions, but mainly from the officials.
“The first turning point came in the 18th minute when Jamie Murphy got pulled down, one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
“I don’t think there’s any question in anybody’s mind that that is a goalscoring opportunity.
“If it’s not, I would like to see one that is. It was a clear red card.
“There were also one or two offside decisions which didn’t go our way.”
Clough is a manager who rarely loses his cool with officials, but he added: “We will mark him (the referee) accordingly.
“There’s no zero on the form, unfortunately, so we might wait to see if they will amend the form and put a zero on.
“It’s not consistency, it’s just being good. I thought it spoiled a reasonable game, it shouldn’t have been 10 versus 10.
“Some of it was self-inflicted, though.
“For the first offside decision, they have a lad on the line from a corner and he gives offside. It’s quite incredible. I am looking forward to seeing the explanation on that one.”
Teenager Harrison McGahey was rested by Clough after an impressive start to his United career, after a summer move from Blackpool.
In came McCarthy, after joining on loan from Crystal Palace 24 hours earlier, but it was his error which allowed Chesterfield to make it 2-0 just before half-time.
Explaining McGahey’s absence, Clough said: “We just wanted to give him a break.
“He’s done unbelievably well for us. He came in as fourth-choice centre-half, to play in the Under-21s, and has played every minute of every game. He will probably play at Hartlepool on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think he would have made the mistake McCarthy made. It was an eye-opener for Paddy. He has come from the Premier League, they close you down in League One, you don’t get much time and sometimes it’s more difficult than the Premier League.
“He just took too long, but he knows that with his experience, and he has come in at half-time and apologised.
“He should have put the ball to the corner flag like their centre-halves did.
“There’s not much you can do about the first goal, to beat a goalkeeper of Mark Howard’s quality from 25 to 30 yards. The second goal is a mistake, the third’s offside.”
At 3-0, United were gifted a lifeline when rookie goalkeeper Myles Wright – a first-half substitute after Lee’s red card – allowed a routine shot to squirm from his grasp and McNulty tapped home, before Collins headed in a second in stoppage time.
Chesterfield: Lee, Darikwa, Evatt, Margreitter, Jones, Morsy, Ryan, Johnson, Roberts (Clucas 66), O’Shea (Wright 42), Doyle (Gnanduillet 75). Unused substitutes: Gardner, Raglan, Boco, Banks.
Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock, Collins, McCarthy, McEveley (Harris 67), Doyle, Wallace (McNulty 51), Flynn (Campbell-Ryce 63), Scougall, Murphy, Higdon. Unused substitutes: Basham, Davies, Reed, Turner.
Referee: M Brown (East Yorks).