While most Town fans stayed toasty at home to watch I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, the 372 hardy souls who braved the elements saw one man complete his trial as Jake Sowerby stole the spotlight.
Sowerby’s trial was no Australian jungle and involved no creepy crawlies but it did involve a lame Chesterfield side there for the taking as the midfielder’s prowling runs and fierce strike sent Uwe Rosler’s side on their way into the last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Alex Reid put the icing on the cake to net his first ever competitive goal for the club 11 months after joining from Rushall.
It was all Fleetwood in the first 45 as Uwe Rosler’s mix of development squad kids and first teamers outclassed League Two side Chesterfield.
Only three of the side who started against Hereford in the FA Cup remained as keeper Chris Neal was given another chance to put pressure on Alex Cairns, Ash Hunter was handed a shot at breaking his goal drought and left-sided centre-half Baily Cargill was given some more minutes after a shaky performance on Saturday.
Rosler shifted back from a 3-4-3 to 3-5-2.
Sowerby seems to enjoy this competition, and fresh from scoring in the 2-1 win at Carlisle in the final group game he grabbed the tie by the scruff of the neck with a number of storming runs from the middle.
Despite Sowerby’s prominence it was Chesterfield who had the first effort, with Reece Mitchell’s cross met by O’Grady in the ninth minute.
Sowerby took centre stage and won the ball back in the Spireites box, then blasted home in the 17th minute.
If this was an audition for Saturday’s clash at Wigan then Sowerby certainly impressed, though it was a shame so few witnessed his showing as this much-derided competition and freezing conditions failed to draw a crowds.
Fleetwood kept the pressure up and Hunter’s strike cannoned back to O’Neill but the Burnley loan star’s connection was tame.
O’Neill dusted himself down to turn provider in the 22nd minute and send Hunter clear with an inch-perfect pass, but it was almost a carbon copy of Saturday’s last- gasp chance against Hereford as his effort clattered into the post.
The kid from Squires Gate Sowerby was determined to hog the headlines as he raced forward again and slid the ball over to the right for Hunter to race on to, but his shooting boots must have been stored at home as he curled the chance wide of the left stick.
A 1-0 lead is always a precarious one, and although Town dominated proceedings Chesterfield still had a chance, with Conor Dimaio blasting the ball over.
Town should have doubled their lead as Jordy Hiwula broke through but his effort well saved by Joe Anyon.
But on a stage set for Wigan auditions, strike duo Hiwula and Hunter’s pressing and work rate off the ball would no doubt have impressed Rosler.
Sowerby was determined to hog the limelight and was the man in form, and once again was at the forefront of the danger as he tried to force his name on to Saturday’s team sheet.
Marcus Schwabl drove the ball past the post from distance but despite all of Town’s possession and chances they entered the break with just one goal to their name.
Rosler made a change at half-time, sending Stocksbridge Park Steels signing Harrison Biggins into the mix.
Dimaio fired a free-kick at the wall after Harvey Rodgers had fouled O’Grady but that was the pick of the action as the game petered out, with both sides seemingly settling for a 1-0 Town win.
Rosler sent on Victor Nirennold for dangerman Sowerby and Reid for Hiwula, presumably with one eye on Saturday as everyone seemed to be watching the clock tick down. The Spireites failed to muster any desire in the final third as Town seemingly accepted their place in Friday’s draw.
Then the game sprang to life as Chesterfield keeper Anyon came off with an arm injury, and with all three substitutes all used Lawrence Maguire was forced to play the final minutes in goal.
As one member of the press box commented, it was the most exciting thing to happen in the half and Fleetwood smelled blood.
It was Reid who was to seize the chance, his eyes lighting up at the sight of a rookie keeper on his return from a three-month loan spell with non-league Wrexham.
With his fellow development squad striker Ashley Nadesan sidelined after warming the bench for Town’s first team in recent weeks, Reid put his name forward as he tested Maguire with a header before rippling the back of the net.
Rosler had called on his development players to use this as an opportunity to show him they could do it on a competitive stage, and Hunter teed-up Reid to pounce in the box in the 89th minute.
Fleetwood: Neal, O’Neill (Biggins 46), Hiwula (Reid 64), Maguire, Rodgers, Godswill, Hunter, Schwabl, Sowerby (Nirennold 58), Sheron, Cargill. Subs not used: Crellin, Donohue, Higham, Kerrigan.
Chesterfield: Anyon, Wiseman, Mitchell (Kellett 46), O’Grady, Rowley, Dimaio (Dennis 80), De Girolamo (Reed 46), Maguire, Barry, Weir, Briggs. Subs not used: Parkin , Binnom-Williams, Hird, Wakefield,