Accrington returned home with plenty of compliments – but not the points their show deserved at a thrilling night in Chesterfield on Tuesday.
One former footballer said Stanley were by far the best team he had seen this season in League Two while one of the Spireites management team admitted: "We got our of jail free, they gave us a lesson and we couldn’t contain them."
Meanwhile caretaker boss Tommy Wright called Stanley ‘excellent’.
While nice to hear, the fact Stanley’s unbeaten away run was ended at the Proact Stadium and the sense of injustice which came with several of referee Craig Pawson’s decision did nothing to calm manager Paul Cook’s anger at the final whistle.
"I want a beer to clear this headache and calm down," said the Stanley manager, who couldn’t believe his side had taken nothing.
Craig Lindfield came out for his warm-down shaking his head asking ‘how did we lose that?’ and that was the general sense in a game that swung one way, then the other and had everything with seven goals, controversy, a sending-off and a few ‘afters’.
The Reds were stunned as Chesterfield went 2-0 up inside 11 minutes but Rommy Boco and Peter Murphy squared matters just inside the hour.
Then Jack Lester – who has been a thorn in Stanley’s side over the years – handled the ball in the build-up to Chesterfield’s third but it wasn’t given before Boco scored a superb solo goal 14 minutes from time make it 3-3.
There was more drama to come as a mistimed tackle by Michael Liddle on Lester saw the left-back shown a straight red and he was distraught after the game following a clumsy – rather than malicious – challenge.
And, from the resulting free kick, the ball bobbled around allowing Terrell Forbes to score the winner at the second attempt six minutes from time.
No wonder Cook’s first assessment was simply ‘wow’.
"We gave Chesterfield a leg up in the game but it’s difficult as we have lost but we played really well – we dominated the game, we dominated possession, we created good chances, we hit the woodwork – how can you score three goals away from home and come away with nothing?
"We knew we weren’t going to go through the season unbeaten on our travels but we should have got something from this.
"We go out to play entertaining football and score some goals – we did that on Tuesday attacking-wise while defensively we didn’t do it but that’s football.
"One or two decisions went against us but referees make decisions in games and get some right and some wrong, they are only human.
"I felt more went against us on Tuesday but I can’t change them and we have to move on.
"I cannot fault our players’ appetite or desire and credit to them as we never looked beaten, even with 10 men, but unfortunately it was a step too far."
Cook made a few changes with Dean Winnard and George Miller injured and Lindfield and Danny Schofield coming in for his full Reds’ debut.
Charlie Barnett was also back in the frame and he looked like he had a point to prove in the first five minutes when he rattled the crossbar with a shot.
However the Reds were then stunned as two goals in three minutes put Chesterfield in the driving seat.
A Luke Joyce back header fell agonisingly short and 34-year-old Lester – who has an annoying habit of scoring against the Reds – nipped in and chipped the ball over Ian Dunbavin.
Three minutes later and Lester turned provider, allowing another striker who has been the scourge of Accrington at a number of clubs, Marc Richards, to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
Stanley were passing the ball around well without finding the killer ball but it could have got worse with an unmarked Lester heading wide and Richards having a goal chalked out for a push.
However, the Reds got the goal they deserved when, after the Spireites had that goal ruled out, Stanley went straight down the other end with Barnett crossing from the right for Boco, whose header squirmed past keeper Richard O’Donnell.
Game on and the next goal was going to be vital. Cook put on his two Watford new boys Piero Mingoia and Matt Whichelow 10 minutes after the break and within three minutes their impact was immediate.
It was Mingoia who fired in a curling cross and Peter Murphy was at full stretch to score for the second game, running in at the far post.
At 2-2, Stanley then had a spell of pressure where, as the Chesterfield fans got increasingly restless, it looked like they would go on and win it. But then came a controversial third for Chesterfield as Lester clearly handled the ball in the build-up, on the halfway line.
Waved on, the ball found its way to sub Tendayi Darikwa on the right wing and he played in the cross for Lester to steer in.
That should have been a real blow to Stanley after they’d battled so hard to get back on terms but then a moment of Boco brilliance lit up the Proact Stadium.
The Benin international got the ball, turned and ran at the defence from 30 yards out, evading a number of tackles before firing low into the bottom of the net with his left foot for 3-3.
It was breathless and, with 14 minutes left, it was a case of what will happen next?
Unfortunately for the Reds it was disappointment. The wily Lester had been involved in niggly battles with the Stanley defence throughout the game but Liddle’s challenge was late and Pawson got out the red card.
Then from the resulting free kick, defender Forbes – not a regular scorer – was the Chesterfield hero to leave the Stanley management bemused, frustrated and somehow leaving empty-handed.
"We were the best team by a mile. I can’t praise the players enough, they were naive at times and made mistakes but, overall, they were terrific to watch," added Cook.
And most seemed to agree.